Police are questioning journalists working for daily Politis newspaper over the publication of a list detailing how many deputies owed money to, and how many had non-performing loans with Bank of Cyprus, it emerged on Thursday.
According to the paper, on Wednesday police summoned editor Sotiris Paroutis for questioning in a bid to find out the source that leaked the list to Politis.
It s understood that two more journalists will be questioned.
Politis said it is obvious that police were trying to force the journalists to reveal their sources by threatening them with criminal prosecution.
“Investigating authorities seem to ignore a series of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of our country that make it clear that freedom of the press is the foundation of a democratic society and constitutes a necessary condition for an individual’s progress and development,” Politis said.
The paper stressed that its reports concerned loans of politically exposed persons and not those of private citizens.
Police defended their action, which was criticised by two parties, EDEK and the Greens.
Spokesman Andreas Angelides said they were acting on the written instructions of the state’s Legal Service.
When completed, the case file will be forwarded to the Legal Service for further examination, Angelides said.
Earlier, EDEK said questioning the journalists was unfortunate and violated fully safeguarded and undisputable basic democratic principles.
The Green Party strongly condemned the effort to “terrorise” Politis’ journalists just because they published the list.
The police investigation followed a complaint filed by independent MP Zaharias Koulias in relation to the alleged violation of personal data.
The issue emerged in March after publication of a list of MPs and their loans at Bank of Cyprus.
It showed that out of the 37 MPs listed, 19 owed BoC a total of €51.2m and 13 of those had NPLs totaling €35.3m.
Their total combined collateral stood at €47.1m. In addition, 20 out of the 37 were guarantors for loans worth €72.9m.
Central Bank (CBC) Governor Chrystalla Georghadji told MPs at the time that the list was put together in the same way the UK does with respect to politically exposed persons.
Police have already investigated the CBC.
Furious MPs spoke of an attempt by the central bank to blackmail lawmakers through leaks to the press with information about their loan arrears.