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22 June, 2024
 
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MPs question RIK's handling of political participation in television panels

Debate over RIK's independence intensifies in Cyprus Parliament

Pavlos Neophytos

The unchecked involvement of politicians, notably candidates during election cycles, in RIK broadcasts became a focal point in the Cyprus Parliament.

Neophytos Epaminondas, Director of the Cyprus Radio Television Authority, underscored the imperative for the Authority to oversee public broadcasting, mirroring its oversight of private channels. During the session of the Institutions Committee on Wednesday, deliberating on the European Commission's report on the rule of law, with a specific focus on media diversity and freedom in Cyprus, Mr. Epaminondas highlighted the ongoing legislative amendment aimed at subjecting RIK to Authority regulation, in line with private television channels.

The discussion, which culminated in RIK's Director-General, Athanasios Tsokkos, offering apologies to Andreas Themistocleous, was prompted by data presented by an independent MP, sourced from RIK, concerning the presence of MPs on television panels from 1/06/21 to 31/12/23. Mr. Themistocleous queried why the average appearance of each MP, across all parties, stood at 50, while he himself was invited only twice. "I lodged a complaint letter to RIK in December 2022. Again in December 2023, but received no response," he lamented, questioning the decision-making process.

This sparked reactions from MPs, urging Mr. Themistocleous to disclose the figures against their names. Upon citing the top three on the list, Andreas Pasiourtidis of AKEL garnered 183 appearances, prompting light-hearted banter, "You've set a record!" This was followed by Savia Orfanidou, a DISY MP, with 124 appearances - then Zacharias Koulias of DIKO quipped, "Close to the Nobel!" - and Onoufrios Koullas (DISY), also with 124 appearances.

Pavlos Mylonas of DIKO elucidated that some MPs represent parties, justifying their increased presence on RIK. The Director of the Cyprus Radio Television Authority endorsed the proposal of DIKO MP Zacharias Koulias to foster constructive dialogue between MPs and RIK, while expressing the Authority's eagerness to participate. He also stressed the necessity to scrutinize Mr. Themistocleous's figures. "If someone appeared three to four times, was it due to party constraints? Was it because RIK didn't extend invitations? Was it their own choice?" he pondered.

In addressing the issue of unchecked participation in RIK, Mr. Tsokkos elucidated that RIK is subject to regulation by 6 institutional mechanisms across 6 levels: Ministry of Interior, Central Government, Auditor General, European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Cyprus Radio Television Authority with an annual report, and Parliament at committee and plenary levels.

Taking the floor, AKEL MP Irene Charalambidou recounted her journalistic tenure at RIK, referencing "blacklists" featuring names like Alekos Markidis, Toumazos Tselepis, and Makarios Drousiotis. She insisted on documented evidence to endorse the implementation of such lists, which was not forthcoming. "Personally, I've weathered tumultuous times at RIK. And I suspect they may persist today. For instance, during broadcasts addressing weighty matters, there's a palpable sense of control," she asserted. Ms. Charalambidou also alluded to the cancellation of Makarios Drousiotis's hosting on an RIK show in 2021, hinting at external intervention.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  politics  |  RIK  |  news  |  minister  |  government  |  parliament

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