The bar association said on Wednesday that the attorney-general was right to appeal for an end to a public debate over the state attorney whose leaked emails suggested she may have been overly helpful to Moscow in extradition cases of Russian nationals.
On Tuesday, Attorney-General Costas Clerides appealed for an end to statements or actions that may affect the investigation, warning that it was an offence punishable with imprisonment.
His appeal was criticised by daily Politis, which had originally published the emails of senior counsel Eleni Loizidou to Russian officials, suggesting it was a gagging order.
But the chairman of the bar association, Doros Ioannides, said Clerides was right in doing so.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Ioannides said there were cases in the past where witnesses had been affected by the publicity, in turn having an impact on the legal proceedings.
“The attorney-general’s position is very right,” Ioannides said. “When any case is being investigated, you can’t have whomever making statements because testimony can be affected and material could be lost.”
Ioannides said it was a matter of protecting the procedure, the witnesses and the evidence.
“Press freedom is one thing and interfering in police procedures another. There is a fine line,” he said.
“We cannot delve into testimony and who is guilty or innocent. Nor can we abolish press freedom,” he added.
The journalists’ union also weighed in on the debate on Wednesday, saying press freedom could not be hindered under the pretext of law and order.
In Loizidou’s case, the theft of the emails has ceased to be of primary importance due to the content of the messages.
“A content crucially linked with public interest,” the union said.
It added that the leaked emails could affect Cyprus’ relations with the EU and Russia and the media could not remain indifferent.
“In a lawful state everyone plays their own separate role. Let journalism fulfil its mission unhindered.”
In response, Clerides said he was simply explaining the reasons why procedures should be protected as stipulated by law. He was neither threatening nor trying to intimidate anyone, the attorney-general said.
Personal data commissioner Irene Loizidou Nicolaidou responded to Loizidou’s lawyer who had earlier this week deemed her preliminary ruling over the publication of the emails “invalid and legally unfounded”.
The ruling concerned a complaint over the publication of personal data but Nicolaidou had responded with a preliminary ruling saying publishing personal data may be allowed if it served the public interest.
She admonished the media for exposing the personal data of people referenced in the emails but not involved in the case.
Loizidou’s lawyers accused Nicolaidou of bias as her husband is the financial director of Politis however she responded saying the complaint did not concern just Politis but “dozens of media outlets in Cyprus and abroad”.
As a matter of transparency, Nicolaidou sought to specify that she had never in the past examined a case that concerned Politis newspaper.
A letter responding to the legal arguments Loizidou’s lawyer made was sent to them, Clerides and the Cabinet appointed investigator, Nicolaidou said.
“I chose not to get involved in a public dialogue with Loizidou’s lawyer to protect her and her interests so I will not publish my response. If she so wishes, she can make my letter public.”