While freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution, the government, the Orthodox Church and business interests have significant influence over the media. The long-standing dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots also has a significant impact on how the media operates.
Cyprus has several daily newspapers (Phileleftheros, Alithia, Haravghi, etc.), weekly newspapers, TV channels and radio stations. Direct interference in editorial work, growing media concentration and lack of transparency in print and digital media ownership have undermined media pluralism and has made journalists resort to self-censorship. The journalists’ code has, however, recently been strengthened in areas such as editorial independence and journalistic ethics in covering sensitive issues.
Although the physical integrity and safety of journalists are not threatened, the media are the target of verbal attacks by politicians, which contributes to a lack of freedom of expression. Informal relationships between politicians and media owners strengthen the influence of the former on the sector, as does a widespread sense of duty and loyalty to the government on the Cyprus issue.
Defamation is not a crime, but the Attorney General can authorize criminal prosecution of a media outlet. There are regulatory safeguards for the protection of sources and editorial autonomy is guaranteed, but mechanisms or procedures to protect journalists and prevent political interference are limited. Direct interference in editorial work is not uncommon. The law protects private communications, but there are no clear rules on the use of interception devices due to national security concerns. Civil libel lawsuits contribute to self-censorship and discourage investigative journalism.
The tight advertising market and the recent economic crisis have made the media increasingly vulnerable to influences of 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.
The Cyprus problem is a taboom and all journalists are expected to be “loyal” to the government’s narrative when it comes to this issue. Journalists questioning this line are often branded as “traitors. There are also state bans on the use of certain terms related to the Cyprus problem.
There are no arbitrary detentions or murder of journalists. There are incidents of verbal attacks by state officials against the media, which affect freedom of expression. Although there are no serious physical threats or attacks, journalists are often victims of online harassment. There are allegations of state surveillance and hacking into the devices and electronic archives of a journalist who published a book about corruption, but the police investigation failed to produce any results.