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Journalist or Lobbyist? Opinion

censorshipToday is World Press Freedom Day and the thought that comes to mind is that in Cyprus, journalists need to start asking themselves whether they are reporters or lobbyists.

This important question is valid for all journalists working on the island. On a daily basis, authorities on both sides of the divide produce propaganda that has a specific set of terminology that heavily influences the way that reporters write their stories.

The terminology has become so entrenched that it is difficult to separate fact from propaganda. Does the list of key phrases below sound familiar?

1. Turkish intransigence.
2. Greek-Cypriot intransigence.
3. Turkish-Cypriot isolation.
4. 'So-called'
5. Greek-Cypriot atrocities
6. Atilla
7. Peace Operation

And the list goes on. The unthinking use of these key phrases that are distributed daily by both administrations has led us into a situation where journalists are actually mouthpieces for one side or the other, a position which seriously threatens the independence of the media. There is also a feeling of disloyalty if a journalist does not use these common phrases and possible repercussions from media employers if they are omitted in any way.

At the end of the day, self-censorship is as dangerous as government censorship or censorship from any other source.

Many of these key phrases are also misleadingly translated into English and end up confusing the reader. For example, the word intransigence has been translated from the Greek 'αδιαλλαξίας' meaning 'inflexibility', which has a slightly different connotation to intransigence, which means 'stubborness' or 'bullheadedness'.

One of the most emotive words is Atilla, used to describe Turkish troops and the 1974 invasion. The 1974 invasion is a historical fact but when reporting new intrusions by Turkish planes in Cyprus' airspace, journalists often say that 'Atilla invaded our airspace, once again showing their intransigence.' It would be more accurate to say 'Turkish war planes continue their invasion of Cyprus' airspace, flying in the face of international law.'

One of the key phrases that crops up a lot in the Turkish-Cypriot press is 'Peace Operation' as a way to describe the war in 1974. By no stretch of the imagination could a situation in which 250,000 Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots were uprooted and herded into two separate communal enclaves be called 'peaceful'. It flies in the face of common sense and all the facts.

'Turkish-Cypriot isolation' is doublespeak for what the Turkish-Cypriot administration really means, which is 'non-recognition of the TRNC' - quite a different thing. Yes, the unilaterally-declared TRNC is only recognised by Turkey, that is a fact, but it is disingenuous to call this state of affairs 'isolation'. A journalist must at least recognise the emotional manipulation and political agenda lurking behind this phrase.

Ultimately, even if one sympathises with one particular position or the other, it is the height of arrogance for reporters to try and brainwash society. In the field of mass communications the journalist's highest responsibility is to let people make up their own minds based on solid, reliable facts reported in a responsible and unbiased manner.


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