Cyprus Mail

House to prioritise fake news bill after Demetriou allegations

Εκλογή νέου Προέδρου της Βουλής τω
House president Annita Demetriou

The House legal affairs committee will restart discussing a bill regarding fake news, chair Nikos Tornaritis said on Wednesday.

This comes just two days after House president Annita Demetriou filed a police report over fake news articles targeting her and her family.

Tornaritis said that during the day’s session, the committee informally discussed the bill, which has already been raised eight times in the past.

He clarified that the bill deals with harassment that takes place either by phone call, texts, or online, adding that he had asked for an investigation into the relevant laws in force in other EU member states.

The results were submitted to the committee in mid-December, and they covered what exactly is in force and the kind of penalties that are imposed for each separate violation, he explained.

“Obviously we will defend freedom of opinion and freedom of speech to the end,” he added. “From here on, no distorting, false news can disturb the common peace, impose insecurity on citizens and brutally insult persons and consciences.”

Parliament will legislate this, he said, adding that he gave deputies 15 days to study the results of the investigation and take it to the House plenum.

“We are not innovating here,” he stressed. “This issue has already been considered in most EU states, but it is an issue that concerns the European Parliament itself.”

The right to individual freedom is recognised, and must be defended, Tornaritis added. “One person cannot invade another’s freedom and personal data and brutally encroach on them, and this must be made clear to everyone.”

In reference to Demetriou’s allegations, the committee chair was asked whether the committee on journalistic ethics would be called upon.

He responded that it would be, but added that he was not referring to professional journalists, but to the thousands on the internet who have the right to criticise, to express their opinions and to satirise.

“This, however, does not mean that it is possible for them to smear persons and offend principles through fake news,” he stressed. “This is something serious and in other countries it has also led to extreme behaviours.”

Asked what will be the body to decide whether something constitutes fake news, he said that proving the fact is the most serious issue and it will come down to this bill.

In his view, the police and its cybercrime unit must also play an important role.

“With the passing of this specific legislation, we want to send a resounding political message at all levels, that personalities and scruples cannot be divided,” he concluded.


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