Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides yesterday tweeted the following with regard to a Reuters report the Cyprus Mail carried regarding the explosion in the north. “The newspaper @cyprusmail, refers, since the morning to the occupied village of Vouno with the illegal name of ‘Tashkent’. Two issues are raised a) whether this constitutes a criminal offence based on Law 71(I)2013 and b) whether the newspaper receives a state subsidy. As the Auditing Service we will see the latter.”
If Michaelides took such offence and believed the Cyprus Mail was breaking the law in failing to change the place-name on a report filed by Reuters, why did he not pick up the phone and point out the unintentional mistake of the paper so it could be changed? That is what any reasonable official would have done. But the attention-seeking Michaelides – as always – chose instead to go public, using his Twitter account to fire his threats.
Apart from attention-seeking, he also likes to bully and intimidate. His tweet was a classic example of this. Not only had he identified a criminal offence, even though this is not part of his official responsibilities, he also felt obliged to issue a threat about the small annual subsidy the newspaper receives from the state as part of the government’s policy to support the beleaguered press. The auditing service, he claimed, would examine whether the Cyprus Mail receives a state subsidy.
He does not need to examine this. We can tell him that it does. So do all newspapers. Is he going to decree that the paper be refused its subsidy this year because a Reuters report posted on our website on July 1 referred to the village of Vouno by the illegal name of ‘Tashkent’? Would this be a lawful action, or would the government have to stop the Cyprus Mail receiving the subsidy because the autocratic Michaelides commanded it to do so? Perhaps, if the paper was found guilty of violating the law Michaelides referred to such action would be justified, but no case has been brought against the paper, let alone it being found guilty. In fact, we are surprised he did not tweet, as he often does, that he will report the matter to the attorney-general. On this point, is it not a classic example of an abuse of process by a non-competent state official to threaten publicly the press with a criminal action?
This paper has often been critical of Michaelides for abusing his position, exemplified in unrelenting public intimidation and, when possible, humiliation of his targets. This is why he seized the opportunity to target the Cyprus Mail, in what can only be described as an act of vindictiveness and a blatant threat against the freedom of the press.