FREEDOM of speech is taken for granted in Cyprus, with parts of the media often tolerating abusive remarks by politicians and government officials, while some editors and journalists commonly cross the thin line of libel, each time using the excuse of “public interest.”
However, when it comes to real cases of public interest, some media bosses and journalists occasionally bow to commercial interests or simply accept only one side’s view as a fact.
Such was the reporting a few weeks ago of the case of a single property owner duped by a crooked developer who was fed up of his arguments falling on deaf ears and decided to take the matter into his own hands – he and his family protested at the entrance of a high-profile property show in the U.K., causing the handful of Cypriot exhibitors to be embarrassed and labelling Cyprus as being “A Shame in the Sun”.
Local media hastily labelled the protestors as ‘rowdy’ and causing serious harm to the island’s lucrative property sector, but few actually cared to find out the real reason for the whole fuss.
Hundreds of cases of property fraud are swept under the carpet by well-connected developers or their smart-suited lawyers, while civil servants in the know throw their arms up in the air in despair. No wonder the Interior Minister is clueless when it comes to what is really happening in the property sector. Perhaps he should be less generous with incentives in the future as developers have been less than honest with him.
However, a sadder case was the news that the Cyprus Property Action Group has been ordered to shut down its website, because of allegedly libellous attacks against a leading developer in Paphos.
Furthermore, the owner of the Internet page is also being sued, while he has received threats of being placed on a black list and of being thrown in jail if he does not show up in court.
Is this Cyprus we are talking about or a dictatorial central African state where relatives, friends and money rule the day?
Surely, a public relations nightmare could have been turned around to resolve any case, as long as either side stuck to the basic rules of fairness, truth and goodwill? Unless, of course, some of these ingredients were not there. In which case, property developers could now face an even worse nightmare of harsher criticism and ruthless attacks on online communities and blogs.
Perhaps some property developers should at last consider adopting the rule “if it’s broke, fix it!”