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Ex-MP loses long libel battle with newspaper over anti-gay comments

Former DISY MP Andreas Themistocleous

Former Disy MP Andreas Themistocleous on Saturday lost a long-running legal battle against Politis newspaper and journalist Costas Constantinou, who Themisocleous accused of libel in an article published in the paper some nine years ago.

According to Politis, in the article published in May 2010, the columnist criticised what he said was the hypocritical stance taken by Disy on the “racist” commentary by its MP on a radio programme in April of the same year.

In a widely condemned interview on Astra radio, Themistocleous had said that the recognition of same-sex marriage would have severe consequences for society. He said that since homosexual partnerships had become a reality, and efforts were underway to grant them further rights, then maybe further rights should also be granted to paedophiles, those who partake in bestiality, necrophiles and criminals, since they were also present in society.

In his article, Constantinou said Themistocleous had made a “wanton, entirely unfounded and clearly racist attack against a social group, which already experiences prejudice and exclusion.”

Constantinou also assigned responsibility to Disy for its long delay in commenting on the controversy its MP had caused.

Themistocleous filed a lawsuit against the paper and its columnist, claiming libel and the defamation of his name. The then-MP made his case that the article was one among many published by Politis newspaper that were extremely critical of him

In its ruling on Saturday, the Nicosia district court said that Themistocleous “did not make a good impression”. The judge said that in contrast to the public image he attempted to create for himself – that of a person who is not afraid of speaking his mind openly – in court Themistocleous “showed signs of evasion”, and even attempted to dispute that his comments on the radio programme had ever taken place.

Despite Themistocleous’ efforts to show a different face in court than the one he presented as a public figure, the court dismissed his case, claiming that the newspaper article fell within the public sphere.

“The publication in question cannot be considered defamation,” the judge asserted. “A politician, who has no problem expressing himself in the way he did publicly, should not be so sensitive to strong and harsh criticism.”

While avoiding comment on the substance of Themistocleous’ controversial comments, the court recognised that they were largely received with outrage.

The court, ruling in favour of the newspaper, found Constantinou’s remarks on Themistocleous’ comments “reasonable and honest”.

Themistocleous, a ‘serial speeder’ has had several disheartening rulings from courts, relating mostly to traffic offences. In 2016, attorney-general Costas Clerides succeeded in lifting his parliamentary immunity to stand trial for a string of traffic offences, which eventually cost him his licence in 2017 for six months and €3,000 in fines.

 

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