A bicommunal initiative to create a glossary of mutually acceptable terms for journalists to use when reporting on the Cyprus problem is causing uproar within certain quarters of the Greek Cypriot media.
The contentious issue came to light on Sunday when Simerini, which belongs to Dias Group, carried the story under the headline: ‘They’re distorting history, muzzling journalists’.
One of the authors of the glossary hit back on Monday, saying it had not even been published yet which meant the newspaper was criticising something it had not even read.
Outlining details of the initiative, the paper reported that the glossary was a joint venture between the Cyprus journalists ethics committee (the Cyprus media complaints commission) and their Turkish Cypriot counterparts.
Giorgos Pavlides, head of the ethics committee, said on Monday the body had absolutely nothing to do with the glossary, although one of its members, Christos Christofides, was one of the four people involved along with one other Greek Cypriot and two Turkish Cypriots.
The parties decided to undertake the project under the umbrella of the OSCE (Organisation for security and co-operation in Europe) which had carried out a similar venture in the past between Palestinian and Israeli journalists.
Christofides told the Cyprus Mail on Monday he had been contacted by Simerini when the article was being prepared and he had told them about the initiative.
“I told them this glossary isn’t binding. It’s a guide. And then they put out this headline saying journalists are being muzzled.”
Christofides said the glossary is nothing more than a guide that journalists can choose to follow if they so wish to avoid using terms that may cause upset on the Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot side of the divide.
“The terms do not change or remove the essence of the meaning behind them,” he said.
The glossary which consists of some 50 terms will be presented to journalists in July.
Christofides said he hoped that members of the press “will realise, after they read it, that it’s not what they [Simerini] say.”
He refrained from providing any examples as the glossary has yet to be approved but conceded that there were some terms neither of the two sides had agreed upon.
More importantly, he said, the article, which incensed the paper and later Sigmalive, also part of the Dias Group, was written without any of the journalists reading the actual glossary.
“It hasn’t even been presented yet,” he said.
“They didn’t even read the glossary. They haven’t even seen what the terms are or what it says. And in addition, this glossary is a guide. It’s not something anyone is being forced to follow.”
Nonetheless, there was no let up. Editor-in-chief of Phileleftheros Aristos Michaelides on Monday said the move was “at least ridiculous” and was attempt to create a “fake consciousness”.
“This is a broader plan to deflect and place marked cards against the rights of Cypriot Hellenism. Consciously or unconsciously they want to create a new order of things whose main purpose is to brush the occupation under the carpet.”
His statement to Sigmalive also went on to say that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci had told people it bothers him when he is reported on as the ‘occupying leader’ and this message had been conveyed to Michaelides.
“I also know that Greek Cypriot politicians told journalists to stop writing pseudo-state, pseudo-president, pseudo-minister, because it doesn’t help the ‘climate’.”
Lawyer Chris Triantafyllides said though there are ethical rules governing professions, “they cannot violate the constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
Christofides noted that journalists in Cyprus violated the ethics code every day and the way they misrepresented the story and his quotes was ironically against the very code they were clinging to for freedom of expression.
Columnist for Simerini, Savvas Iacovides said honest journalism opposed and did not serve ‘other’ purposes.
“The Turkish occupation is an occupation. The Turkish Cypriot revolt of 1963 is a Turkish Cypriot revolt. The Turkish murders of Greeks are murderers. Akinci, like his predecessor, is an agent of the criminal sultan (Turkish President Tayyip) Erdogan and is promoting hostile Turkish interests towards the Republic of Cyprus.”
Iacovides called the move anti-democratic and fascistic in favour of “political, party and ideological purposes.”