Lawmakers on Thursday called time on the way the island’s state broadcaster operates to ensure more press freedom and impartiality.
The revision of Chapter 300A of the law concerning the operation of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (Cybc) comes after a debate before the House interior committee, following allegations of interference with the purpose of interrupting a broadcast and the resignation of journalist Dinos Finikaridis.
Committee Chairman, Aristos Damianou, said that a report will be prepared to be presented before the House plenary on the conclusions of the discussion held recently about the need to ensure press freedom and impartiality at Cybc, its role as a public broadcaster and the dangers posed by the possibility of censorship of journalists and the media.
Cybc director general, Thanasis Tsokkos said that broadcaster’s legal advisors had already received instructions to proceed with preparations for the revision of Chapter 300A, which governs the legislation for its operation.
Disy MP Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis raised the issue of the way MPs and politicians in general are invited on to Cybc shows, saying it lacked transparency.
“There are MPs who know where Cybc, and others who don’t,” he said, adding that the institution was not accountable regarding this practice. He also asked for an explanation in parliament on whether MPs were being promoted at will, or according to the wishes of parties or party interests.
In response, Cybc’s chairman, Michalis Michael, said that the representation of politicians is down to journalists’ own judgment and the current affairs of the day, and stressed that the administration does not intervene except when there is a question of “fair representation, especially on issues concerning a particular political person”.
Cybc’s director of news and current affairs Yiannis Nicolaou confirmed that current affairs are one of the main criteria for selecting guests for broadcasts.
For his part, Diko MP Marinos Mousiouttas said that he too had requested explanations from CyBC about three years ago regarding the hosting of politicians in broadcasts.
Mousiouttas cited data that he had been given at the time, showing that some MPs had been hosted dozens of times, while the chairman of the parliamentary committee with the most issues to talk about, had been hosted only twice. He said this was not consistent with the answer he was given at the time, that the criteria for the selection of CyBC’s guests depended on the topic of their opinion and their availability.
Edek MP Costas Efstathiou, who had been at the centre of the debate after his invitation for on-air comment was cut off by the broadcast, made it clear that he is not pointing the finger at anyone.
“We happen to be [waiting] on the line many times, expecting to speak, but to be told that it will not be possible, either because of breaking news or because there was a delay,” he said.
He stressed, however, that “we are asking for more from Cybc as ordinary citizens, because it is a public broadcaster.”
In a statement of her own, Cyprus Greens MP Alexandra Attalides said that “informing the public is not just about people showing up and saying whatever they want off topic,” adding that the people working at CyBC know this.
“We too must not go to the point of wanting to control journalism,” she said.