Cyprus: a divided public

Cyprus's media landscape was shaped by the former colonial power Great Britain until independence in 1960. That same year press freedom was enshrined in the constitution and in 1989 extended via a law. Since the division of Cyprus in 1974, the island's media landscape has also been de facto divided.

Border strip in Cyprus (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Border strip in Cyprus (© picture-alliance/dpa)
The newspaper market in the southern part of the island is dominated by six major newspapers published in Greek and two major English-language newspapers. In northern Cyprus there are 16 Turkish-language dailies, the largest of which is Kibris. Several newspapers have strong ties with the Turkish-Cypriot parties. The number of dailies in northern Cyprus has increased considerably in recent years, since business people from Turkey became active in this sector. While press freedom is for the most part respected in the southern part of the island, journalists in the occupied northern areas must reckon with reprisals and even arrest if they are critical in their coverage.

The banking crisis in 2013 had a strong impact on media reporting. The view of developments in the Greek-Cypriot media was marked by the political and economic interests of the medium in question and its owners. Reporting on the crisis ranged from panic reports of a possible state bankruptcy to a feeling of collective guilt, an overemphasis on corruption and an increasingly close alignment with Europe. The last was aggravated by the dispute between Nikosia and Ankara about gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus.

The negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the Cyprus conflict, which have dragged on for years, are still followed closely by the Cypriot media. When yet another attempt at reaching a deal was made in 2016 the debate in the media was characterized by a higher degree of pluralism than in previous years. Moreover, in recent years collaboration between the media and journalists on both sides has been strengthened through various projects.

There was a sharp overall decline in newspaper sales during the crisis. Many journalists had their salaries cut and many employees lost their jobs. 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 portals and alternative online sources as well as social media such as Facebook and Twitter - has increased in recent years. Cypriots generally tend to use the Internet as a primary news source.

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 ten private ones.

Press Freedom Rating:
Reporters Without Borders: 30th place (2017)
Freedom House: 38th place – status: free (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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