What the President said or did he ever say it

2 mins read

Cyprus is not a bastion of investigative journalism as nature of the beast doesn’t allow for it roam in these protected waters where hearsay and subterfuge suffice.

Students of the written word do not hold up Cyprus as a shining light in the darkness where democracy dies.

It is harsh terrain for truly independent reporters to flourish while a lack of whistleblowers and transparency make the job of uncovering the truth – whatever that might be – impractical.

Journalists are an unpopular species with the public conception of ‘making up stories’ a common one.

Those in the spotlight usually accuse the media of not getting their facts right.

Anyone crazy enough to be a news reporter will discover many layers of the truth, some glaringly obvious, others go deeper or purposely obscured.

Sometimes we are compromised by not what we write but what we choose to leave out, the ‘right to know’ is a many-headed monster.

Maybe the best one can hope for is being in a position to ask the awkward questions that those in authority would prefer not to answer or avoid altogether.

Public opinion moves in mysterious ways.

The media can help those shifts in a positive manner where others prefer to manipulate.

Whatever your views on journalism or journalists, making people in authority accountable for their actions is, surely, positive in a ‘free’ society.

There are states where leaders do not entertain criticism or anything that smells of free speech or freedom of thought.

A matter of principle 

Rarely do Cypriot scribes resign over a question of ethics or something controversial they have written.

Like most governments, this administration is sensitive to criticism from established local media rather than global international players.

So, when someone suggests in an opinion piece that the President had one too many and blurted out his family law firm made millions from ‘golden passports’ then there is going to be splashback.

Editor in chief at Kathimerini Cyprus, Andreas Paraschos, claimed in his article for the weekly newspaper.

He recounted a conversation in Athens four years ago where President Anastasiades was allegedly in the company of then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot political party leaders.

Allegedly, the President boasted the law office raked in €300 mln annually from the Cyprus passport scheme with the money spirited away to Seychelles on a private jet.

Paraschos stands by his claim, saying someone with impeccable credentials told him.

Tsipras came out and denied such a thing were said in his presence while Anastasiades has challenged the author to present the facts or admit he was badly misinformed.

It took Anastasiades four days to react to the story while the government was adamant it did not intervene to get the editor sacked.

Kathimerini apologised to the Presidential Palace without the knowledge of Paraschos who said he was forced to resign because the newspaper did not back him.

It is hard to believe there were no back-channel discussions by people close to the President and the newspaper to throw sand on the story.

The toothless union of journalists also got involved saying how Paraschos was press-ganged out of a job damaged a free press.

Anastasiades wrote to the journalist union saying there was a concerted effort to blacken his name with slanderous intent.

Although it seems the gist of the story had a political edge to argue that the President was making so much from golden passports, he was in no hurry to solve the Cyprus problem.

What was said or not said during a friendly conversation in 2017 will be hard to prove unless someone recorded what transpired.

Paraschos obviously trusted the source of information, he has to stand by that, although, as a veteran he knows, people divulge secrets for nefarious motives.

People who believe the government is rotten to the core are likely to buy the version of events revealed in the article, but that doesn’t make it the truth.

And not being able to provide evidence to the contrary doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen.

But there is no smoking gun unless the person who told Paraschos what happened comes forward to defend him.

At the moment, there is a bucket full of denials, rumours, and social media chatter.

A truth hunter would be out there checking the prevalence of private flights to the Seychelles…Nah I didn’t think so.