Cyprus: a divided public

Ever since the occupation of Northern Cyprus by the Turkish military in 1974 the island’s media landscape has also been split in two. This division is also reflected in the repression faced by its journalists.

A woman demonstrating against the attacks by Turkish nationalists against the newspaper Afrika in northern Cyprus.
A woman demonstrating against the attacks by Turkish nationalists against the newspaper Afrika in northern Cyprus.
In the south of the island, freedom of the press has generally been respected in recent years. However, when journalists published the private emails of a high-ranking prosecutor in 2017 they were interrogated by the police, and even accused of having committed a crime. The prosecutor had allegedly passed on information to Russian officials about sensitive extradition cases and had been suspended as a result. In March 2018, six Greek Cypriot MEPs wrote to the European Commission asking it to intervene on the journalists’ behalf. At the beginning of April 2018, the attorney general announced that the journalists would not be prosecuted and that the interrogations carried out as part of the investigation were over.

Journalists in the Turkish-occupied north of the island must reckon with reprisals, arrests and even violent attacks if they publish critical reports. In January 2018, for example, nationalists attacked the offices of the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika, which had published an article criticising the Turkish military operation in the Syrian town of Afrin. Turkey’s President Erdoğan had mentioned this article in a speech and called on his "Northern Cypriot brothers and sisters" to “respond” to it.

The newspaper market in the southern part of the island is dominated by six major newspapers published in Greek and one English-language newspaper. In northern Cyprus there are at least 19 Turkish-language dailies, the largest of which is Kıbrıs. Several newspapers have strong ties with the Turkish-Cypriot parties. The number of dailies in Northern Cyprus has increased considerably in recent years, after business people from Turkey became active in this sector.

Over the years the Cypriot media have avidly followed the futile negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus conflict. Although yet another attempt to reach an agreement failed in the summer of 2017, a greater degree of pluralism could be observed in the media debate during these negotiations compared to previous attempts. In addition, cooperation between media outlets and journalists from both sides has intensified in recent years thanks to a number of joint projects. In October 2017, for example, journalists from both sides published a common glossary in order to avoid sensitive terms and potentially inflammatory statements.

There was a sharp overall decline in newspaper sales during the financial crisis. Many journalists had their salaries cut and many jobs were axed. Whereas in the past, reporting focused primarily on political issues, nowadays economic reporting also plays a central role. The importance of digital media - particularly online news sites and alternative online sources as well as social media such as Facebook and Twitter - has increased in recent years. There is a general tendency in Cyprus to use the Internet as the primary source of news.

The influence of political parties and the Church on the media is strong. The Church owns a share in the TV channel Mega, for example. The daily Haravgi has close ties with the Communist Party, as does the radio station Astra.

Broadcasting in Cyprus was under British influence until well into the 1950s. Today southern Cyprus has two state and seven private television channels. Audiences tend to prefer the private channels because they broadcast Greek entertainment programmes and series. In the north people tend to watch Turkish television, but there is also one Turkish-Cypriot channel and seven private ones.

Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Cyprus: Rank 30 (2018)
Northern Cyprus: Rank 77 (2018)

Last updated: May 2018
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