By Elias Hazou
Having received an ‘unprecedented’ number of complaints from television viewers, the Broadcasting Authority has initiated an investigation into contentious remarks made last week by Pavlos Mylonas, a journalist with the Mega channel.
On Thursday, January 7, on a daily news show which he hosts, Mylonas launched into a tirade about modern-day Greek Cypriots who cross over to the north to do business or buy goods and services.
He went on to call these people ‘koprites’ – a Greek word translating roughly to ‘mongrels’ or ‘deadbeats’ – saying they were unworthy of their patriotic ancestors.
The offensive word was used several times.
The next day, the presenter issued a clarification verging on an apology, admitting his comments had upset many people.
Andreas Petrides, head of the Broadcasting Authority, confirmed to the Sunday Mail that an investigating officer has been appointed to look into the incident.
Based on the fact-finding report to be filed by the officer, the authority’s council would then decide whether or not Mylonas’ comments were in breach of broadcasting standards.
In the event the authority determines an infraction, it can issue the TV station a reprimand or slap the station with a fine of a maximum of €7,500.
Initiating an investigation is standard procedure once complaints are lodged, explained Petrides.
Asked how many complaints the Broadcasting Authority has received about the incident, he said they number in the dozens.
“In the five years that I’ve been here I’ve never before seen such a wave of complaints. It’s unprecedented,” added Petrides.
The complaints started pouring in the day the contentious show aired, and enraged people were still phoning in two days after that.
“It’s since abated,” he said.
The Mail contacted a spokesperson for Mega to inquire as to whether the station has received complaints from viewers, and whether the station considers Mylonas’ clarifications adequate.
The station said it would get back to the Mail if it had an official response.
The Mail also contacted Petros Petrides, Secretary of the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission (CMCC).
Petrides said the commission would be reviewing the Mylonas incident.
The commission has a protocol in place for the public to lodge formal complaints, which are then investigated.
Whereas in this case the CMCC had received only verbal complaints from the public, nevertheless the commission decided the incident merited an ex-officio review. The commission’s scope of sanctions is limited to naming and shaming, explained Petrides.
Asked whether he recalled another case on a par with Mylonas’, Petrides – who has been with the CMCC since 1999 – said he did not.
“As far as the tone, intensity and nature of the comments, I don’t think we’ve witnessed anything like this before. Not even during the charged days of the referenda [in 2004] when a lot of loaded words were bandied about on television.”
The code of ethics requires journalists to always be civil, he added.
In his own clarification, Mylonas said he never intended to offend people who travel to the occupied areas or who do their shopping there, as they may be poor or unemployed. He said also there was nothing wrong about Greek Cypriots going to the north for religious worship or to meet Turkish Cypriot friends.
These people could thus not be categorised as ‘koprites’, he said.
“Even the big businessmen who buy land from poor Greek Cypriots or co-operate with Turkish Cypriot businessmen or many others who go to the casino or other disreputable areas cannot be called koprites either. They are something else.”
Mylonas then said the backlash to his comments had been out of all proportion, suggesting this was no accident and his detractors had ulterior motives.
“Those who want to understand will understand what I meant. At any rate, those who are fanatics will not understand, I am certain they will exploit this because they have other things going on in their mind.”
Known for his views on the Cyprus issue, which some might describe as hard-line, Mylonas also frequently appears as a commentator on the channel’s nightly news bulletin.
Mega channel’s main anchor often brings on two reporters as ‘supporting cast’ to provide context or comment on a news story. On more than one occasion, when discussing a development in the Cyprus talks, Mylonas has been at odds with a colleague who has a softer stance, leaving the main anchor looking slightly embarrassed.