A House representative in the Republic of Cyprus says she had to deal with blacklists when she worked in state media, saying during a budget session on Thursday that she felt compelled to respond to colleagues who defended a move to keep political satire out of public television.
During a budget session on Thursday for state television RIK, members of parliament got into an argument about bias in journalism and political censorship.
MP Christos Christofides said he was worried over signs of bias especially in terms of presenting views of government and opposition during news programs, adding that key positions had been filled with pro-ruling party individuals.
“Apparently there’s an impression within the corporation that whatever the government says is very important and whatever the opposition says gets thrown into a bucket with all the other political parties that are not interesting because they are too many,” Christofides argued.
The MP went on to reveal names of blacklisted individuals including Makarios Drousiotis, an anti-corruption investigative journalist and accomplished book author
The Newly-elected member also went on to criticize the lack of social and political satire on public television, saying RIK had started the tradition but now private channels were getting all the views.
Then veteran MP Zacharias Koulias took the floor, saying he was one of those who fought to keep political satire out of public television and went on to point out there was a difference between news and opinions.
Koulias criticized previous programs on RIK for “ridiculing the president of the Republic, the archbishop, the House Speaker, all done in the worst possible way,” arguing the program was rightfully taken off air.
“That was no satire. I love satire but it has to be done correctly and graciously, and it has to be effective in that people doing the satire know how to do their job,” Koulias added.
But the argument against satire did not sit well with other members, including MP Irene Charalambides who used to work at RIK as a journalist.
Charalambides said she agreed with Christofides but also felt compelled to speak against censorship after hearing Koulias’ statement on satire.
The former journalist took Koulias to task and said her male colleague was implying that “satire was good to us only if it sent the message that we want to hear.”
Charalambides went on to speak in favor of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, saying journalists had to be allowed to do their job and they too would be judged by the viewing public.
“I feel very strongly because when I was at RIK, I had to deal with blacklists from the administration. Every morning after a show I had to deal with meetings for a variety of reasons because people who got upset kept calling the station,” Charalambides said.
Charalambides reveals names on secret blacklist
The MP then went on to reveal names of blacklisted individuals including the late Alecos Markides, a lawyer who also served as attorney general, and Makarios Drousiotis, an anti-corruption investigative journalist and accomplished book author. Others included international law expert Toumazos Tsielepis and bicommunal movement figure Takis Hadjidemetriou, the MP said as she held the floor.
“The first months after the referendum in 2004 they appeared on my show after several fights I had with the administration, when I asked them to put it in writing that they were blacklisted,” Charalambides said, referring to a period after Greek Cypriots rejected a reunification plan for the island.
Charalambides, who was credited for Cyprus’ national whistleblower law earlier this year, argued that journalists today were facing similar problems, saying it was not okay for selected reporters to be targeted.
“We cannot have journalists enjoying or not enjoying that freedom depending on the government administration,” Charalambides said.