THE SUPREME court has heard at long last the appeal filed by Politis newspaper against the injunction prohibiting it from publishing contents from the email account of state attorney Eleni Loizidou. The injunction was issued in January 2018 after some of the correspondence of Loizidou’s private email account had been hacked and its contents published online. The court reserved judgement after hearing the arguments of the two sides. It could take several months before a decision is issued by the court, and no doubt it will be shrouded in legalistic jargon.
Regardless of the court’s decision which will have to be based on articles of the European Convention and the Cyprus constitution relating to the right to free speech, on the one hand and an individual’s right to privacy on the other, there are some disputes that should be resolved by recourse to common sense. As the Politis defence team argued, “the original court decision suffered because there was an inadequate balancing of interests and the big international significance of the issue was ignored.” There was no real examination of the issue at stake, the court ruling that the law protecting the confidentiality of private communication prohibits the publication of hacked emails.
The state legal service did not show the same sensitivity when the email account of UN envoy Alexander Downer was hacked back in 2009. A whole book containing all Downer’s emails was published, but the attorney-general at the time did not prosecute anyone for breaking the law, now being cited to justify the injunction. Was it because the Downer emails were considered to be in the public interest or simply that he was an unpopular foreigner, the confidentiality of whose private correspondence did not merit protection? The thinking at the time was the people deserved to know what the Australian diplomat was saying in his private correspondence about the Cyprus problem.
But by the same rationale, people have every right to know about the dealings of a state attorney in her official capacity with the office of the Russian Federation’s Director of Prosecutions. Some of the emails published suggested that Loizidou was acting more as an employee of the Russian state than as official of the Cyprus Republic. Do Cyprus citizens not have the right to know this, or that a state attorney was zealously pursuing extradition requests that were politically motivated? Politis did not publish any correspondence about Loizidou’s private life – which is what should be protected by the law – but only content related to her official duties, which exposed excessive eagerness to serve the Russian prosecutor’s office.
How a state attorney conducts herself in dealings with another state is not a private matter. She is acting on behalf of the Republic and the press has an obligation to report anything that seems inappropriate. If there was nothing professionally embarrassing in the emails, Loizidou would not go to such lengths to stop their publication and suppress information that is of genuine public interest.