Cyprus’ ranking in world press freedom jumped 10 spots this year to 55th out of 180 countries across the world. The figures published on Wednesday, however, reveal concerns about self-censorship linked to growing media concentration.
The world press freedom index details that while press freedom is guaranteed by the constitution in Cyprus, “the government, the Orthodox Church and business interests have significant influence over the media.”
It warns of direct interference in editorial work and growing media concentration, as well as a “lack of transparency in print and digital media ownership.”
As a result, this has “undermined media pluralism and has made journalists resort to self-censorship.”
On the Cyprus problem, journalists are expected to be “loyal” to the state narrative and any media workers which question the line “are often branded as ‘traitors’,” the report, compiled by Reporters Without Borders reveals.
In a statement, the government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis stressed “it is our duty as a government and state, to practically protect press freedom.” This is necessary for democracy and justice, he added.
Although the physical integrity and safety of journalists are not threatened in Cyprus, the media are the target of verbal attacks by politicians, which contributes to a lack of freedom of expression, the index noted.
Informal relationships developed between politicians and media owners “strengthen the influence of the former on the sector.”
Though there are no physical attacks on journalists, online harassment is a concern as is the growing vulnerability of the media landscape to influences exerted by commercial interests.
“The reliance on advertising and sponsorships has increased the influence of corporations and owners over editorial content. Editorial independence is threatened and self-censorship strengthened by the private media’s reliance on state subsidies and public broadcasters’ dependence on government funding.”
Weighing in on World Press Freedom Day, the journalist’s union in Cyprus (Esk) lamented the declining working conditions.
“Labour rights are declining, working conditions are becoming more difficult, benefits are being abolished, earnings reduced.
“All of these lead to negative consequences on quality journalists, the union added.
“Qualitative, investigative, free and independent journalism can only be achieved by journalism with a strong labour market. Job insecurity, can only yield poor, powerless and manipulative journalism.”
Cyprus’ score on the world press freedom index was 68.62, up from 2022 which had a score of 65.97, where the country ranked 65 out of 180.
The north ranked 76th out of 180, with the report warning on the issues of media ownership, “increasing lawsuits against journalists, and Turkey’s growing pressure on the sector affecting press freedom.”