The EU struck out a clause in the media freedom act that would allow them to spy on journalists it emerged on Saturday, following comments by President Nikos Christodoulides that Cyprus under no circumstances supported such a measure.

The controversial Article 4 of the EMFA contained a loophole allowing for the use of spyware on media service providers, their employees or family members where “the deployment is justified, on a case-by-case basis, on grounds of national security and is in compliance with Article 52(1) of the Charter and other Union law or the deployment occurs in serious crimes investigations.”

The article was stricken out, following an EU-wide uproar. After being removed, the EU Council and parliament agreed on the content of the EMFA.

The act also includes several other provisions for the media regarding transparency in ownership, control of online platforms, and regulations for state advertising.

To pass into law following an agreement on the text, the act will have to be approved by the EU Culture and Education Committee, and then be passed at an EU parliament plenum in March.

In an announcement, the European Federation of Journalist (EJF) said: “The EFJ and its partners led an intense advocacy campaign with its allies, in the European Parliament, the European Commission and with the Spanish Presidency, which played an essential role in the abandonment of the provisions, promoted by France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Sweden, and Finland, which aimed to legalize the deployment of spyware against journalists, based on simple suspicion of a threat to national security.”

In response to a question during an interview with Euronews about the discussions on the law for the protection of journalists and their sources and the attitude of Cyprus, Christodoulides, who served as a government spokesman, expressed particular sensitivity to the issues of journalists and the smooth functioning of their work.

He added that he brought the issue up with the president of the EU parliament, as it was not on the agenda for discussion.

Commenting further, he said that when asking the intention of the EU law, he also gave Cyprus’ position, which is that there is no intention to spy on journalists, and that is Nicosia’s approach.

On Tuesday, the government sought to downplay the notion that it supports a clause in an EU bill currently under discussion that would allow European governments to spy on the communications of journalists.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis was responding to an article run by Phileleftheros, reporting that Nicosia backs the contentious Article 4 in the European Media Freedom Act.

The issue has been condemned by the media ethics committee and the bar association, as well as the journalists union in Cyprus.