The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its full support to the Union of Cyprus Journalists in their condemnation of a court decision in Cyprus, which condemned media for revealing the truth about police violations of human rights.
The EFJ has intervened as a fierce public debate has opened up over a court decision to clear 10 policemen on charges of having beaten two young students in Nicosia in 2005. The case against the police was brought thanks to video evidence leaked to the newspaper Politis, which revealed the violent treatment of the students by police officers. The story was made public in March 2006.
As a result, the policemen concerned were brought to trial, but they were acquitted on 19 March, despite the clear evidence of their actions. Instead, the court accused media of having influenced public opinion against the policemen, which according to the Court, prevented a fair trial. The decision shocked media rights groups and human rights bodies because the video had been in the hands of the Attorney General from the beginning and action was not taken until the media made the details of the incident public.
"It is outrageous that in a democratic society media are apparently chastised for telling the truth at a time of inaction by the responsible authorities," said EFJ President Arne König. "This amazing decision suggests that media cannot fulfil their vital role in reporting about human right abuses by the police. We are not alone in our surprise -the Attorney General, all political leaders and the public have defended the crucial role of the media in this unprecedented case and condemned the court decision."
The EFJ is supporting its affiliate, the Union of Cyprus Journalists, which has launched a campaign following this case to raise the awareness of the watchdog role of media in a democratic society.
"The Criminal Court of Cyprus should revise its decision and apologise for criticising media, said König. "Journalists have nothing to apologise for when they do honest reporting in the public interest. There is no substance to the suggestion of violation of law by media in their reporting of this case."
For more information contact the EFJ at +32.2.2352200/02
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 European countries.