IT WAS rather fitting that Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos chose international ‘Freedom of the Press Day’ to exhibit his disregard for this principle. Appearing on a CyBC television show on Wednesday morning, he tried to intimidate the show’s presenter Stavros Kyprianou because the latter had pointed out something he did not like. Papadopoulos accused the presenter of using “sound-bites on orders from someone”, repeating this charge twice.
Kyprianou, a mild-mannered and courteous presenter, presumably had no mind of his own and lacked professional integrity because he had the audacity to remind Papadopoulos, after the latter had lambasted Akel, that Diko had supported the election of Demetris Christofias. It was a perfectly legitimate point to make, but the Diko leader insisted “I know you have orders to repeat certain questions” despite the presenter’s protestations to the contrary. Kyprianou was not just a liar for refuting Papadopoulos’ claim, but the Diko chief also accused him of “not operating objectively”.
Insulting journalists on air for doing their job does not show much respect for the freedom of the press, even though the attribution of ulterior motives to journalists that ask difficult questions or challenge a politician’s wisdom is common practice. Back in 2004, Tassos Papadopoulos initiated a hate campaign against supporters of the Annan plan, whom he accused of taking money from abroad to do so, even though he did not have a shred of evidence to support these false allegations. It was also not unusual for his spokesmen to accuse the government’s critics of “speaking like Turks”.
This intellectual intimidation has no place in a democratic country that respects freedom of expression. In general, there is freedom of speech Cyprus, which was ranked 30th out of 180 countries by Reporters Sans Frontieres. But blatant intimidation of those holding different views or attributing those views to ulterior motives has a long tradition and it will take a while before they are eliminated from public debate. This is easier said than done, especially as young politicians like Papadopoulos have no qualms about resorting to these tactics; he set the worst possible example with his television outburst.
A healthy sign was that the outburst provoked a lot of criticism on social media, which would suggest that people are no longer prepared to accept this type of nastiness from politicians. It shows that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press have taken root in our society and politicians like Papadopoulos will not be allowed to turn the clock back to avoid answering awkward questions.