Cypriot journalists aren’t happy that the Paris-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) wants them to whitewash how they describe the four decades of failed talks to reunify the island split by an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion occupying the northern third.
Some 210 journalists signed a statement asking the Union of Cyprus Journalists to join in rejecting an OSCE glossary recommending what words they use when writing about the problem that has defied a diplomatic solution for decades.
The reporters were also upset that foreign media and international organizations of journalists had gone along with the OSCE glossary. Unity talks fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey insisted on keeping an army on the island and wanted the right to militarily intervene.
That came after foreign reporters and news associations were accused of being gullible and swallowing press releases from the United Nations and both sides saying all was progressing well when it wasn’t and not challenging official statements.
The journalists said if there union doesn’t act they will file complaints over the glossary to international groups, including the European Federation of Journalists, the OSCE, the freedom of press bureau of the UN, and wherever else is deemed necessary.
Official statements over the last couple of years from the parties involved in the secret talks have largely been platitudes and dipomatic non-statements of non-committal in vague, general terms not giving any real information in most cases.
Blasting the glossary, the Cypriot journalits ridiculed it and said, “This tool, which lacks any scientific validity and which was written echoing the personal views of four people – selected with unclear criteria – is establishing a new official communication line for the Cyprus issue in international media and thus on the international political scene,” the Cyprus Mail reported.
They said the recommended softer, gentler language they were being told to use instead really just “undermines efforts for sincere dialogue and termination of the occupation, which are necessary if we are to come up with a viable solution and peaceful coexistence”.
“In retrospect, it turns out that journalists were used as a Trojan Horse to promote political ends and we regret to see that this was achieved with the approval and inactivity of the board of the Union of Cyprus Journalists,” the statement said.
Earlier, an OSCE official defended the glossary which offers journalists on both sides of ethnically divided Cyprus alternatives to words that are deemed offensive or negative in their reporting of the island’s long-standing conflict – including the word “border.”
The glossary of 56 words and phrases courted criticism from scores of Greek Cypriot journalists and some political parties who saw it as a bid to stymie free speech and impose a vocabulary that skews historical facts.
A protest letter denouncing what it called “dangerous” ideas that aim to turn journalists into “mindless instruments,” and to promote “censorship,” reportedly drew signatures of support from 170 journalists. The letter circulated three weeks before the glossary’s publication.
OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Desir pushed back against the criticism, saying that the glossary was compiled by journalists from both sides of the divide and is strictly voluntary.
He said the glossary explains why certain worlds are deemed offensive, aiming to encourage dialogue between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in order to break down lingering mistrust.
“I think that this criticism was mainly unfair because there was no will to patronize or to impose anything,” Desir told a press conference.
“This glossary is a tool for the discussion in the island, especially for those who are interested in trying to promote a journalism … which is supportive of the view of the future reunification of the island.”
One word that the glossary grapples with is “border,” used by Turkish-Cypriots to describe the demarcation line separating the internationally recognized Cypriot south from the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot north.
According to the glossary, Greek-Cypriots object to the word because it suggests that there are two recognized states on the island. The glossary offers the alternative “Green Line” — a reference to a line that a British officer drew on a map using a green pencil to mark a buffer zone during armed clashes in the early 1960s.
But the glossary offers no agreed-upon alternative to the word “invasion” used to describe Turkey’s 1974 military offensive in Cyprus that followed a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece and which split the island in two.
The glossary says Turkish-Cypriots find the word “offensive and controversial” because it ignores what they say are Turkey’s intervention rights under a treaty embedded in Cyprus’ constitution.
The Cyprus Journalists’ Union had said whether the glossary will be used in whole or in part or discarded entirely rests entirely with individual journalists.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)