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‘It is not our intention to monitor journalists’

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A representative of the interior ministry said on Wednesday “it is not the state’s intention to monitor journalists.”

The comment was made at the House ethics committee, where the controversial European media freedom act was being discussed.

The act’s now-removed Article 4 contained a loophole which would allow 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”.

At the committee on Wednesday, representatives of the interior and foreign ministries and the European Commission moved to make reassurances that the act aimed to protect journalists and set a ceiling on provisions for the surveillance of journalists.

The European Commission’s head of mission in Cyprus Myrto Zambarta explained that while Article 4 was removed, “some provisions which refer to public interest remain, for which judicial approval will be needed.”

“Our aim when we tabled the proposal was to ensure the independence and freedom of journalists and the media,” she said.

However, Ethics Commission chairwoman Elli Kodjamani was less than convinced by the government and the EU’s position.

She said the act “violates the constitutionally guaranteed right of free expression and the protection of sources”.

“It is not enough to make assurances here that there is no intent to monitor [journalists]. The legislation will not only apply today, but also in the future. Maybe, in the future, the state will be in the hands of people it shouldn’t be.

“Then, it will be a problem if the state has the freedom to monitor journalists,” she said.

Speaking after the meeting, Akel MP Irene Charalambides said “the protection of journalists is absolutely fundamental.

“In international conferences everywhere, journalists are complaining about being silenced by multinational companies which have armies of lawyers, which threaten the media with lawsuits and block investigations being carried out against them,” she said.

“Such phenomena can also occur in Cyprus to a lesser extent. That is why I think journalists must be institutionally protected from such hostile actions.”

Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas said “the manipulation of the mass media leads to the manipulation of society. Journalists fight daily with their employers and with their conscience, while they also come under great pressure.”

“The protection of journalists is essential to ensure they can carry out their work without fear of reprisals,” said Volt MP Alexandra Attalides.

“We will support journalists to do their work without being threatened,” she said.

 

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