This article was first published on page 18 of today’s Cyprus Weekly (27 April).
In an increasingly globalised information environment, with the prevalence of multiple channels of communication, the media play a crucial role in encouraging or reducing the influence of conflict on societies. The ongoing Cyprus Problem places additional barriers to effective communication and information exchange between the island’s two main communities. The dominant narrative on the conflict has also had the effect of marginalising voices and opinions that speak of Cyprus in its entirety, as well as issues of relevance to all communities on the island.
The importance of bringing together media professionals in conflict and post-conflict areas has been recognised as a necessary step to promote a culture of trust and understanding between communities. Broadening people’s perspectives and opening them up to information and ideas is an important prerequisite to a fully functioning democratic media, as well as fair and accurate information dissemination within and between communities.
The Collaborative Media Initiative (CMI), implemented under the auspices of the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC), has tried to look at the media landscape as one, bringing together a variety of approaches and documenting initiatives and best practice that all aim to bring two distinct systems of media governance closer together. Its final report, published this week, identifies a series of recommendations for action which fall broadly into three categories:
Creating a vision for an integrated media landscape in Cyprus
The Cypriot media landscape should include the creation of a multilingual and multicultural islandwide broadcaster. Steps can be taken now to fulfil this vision. The example of ARTE TV, established by France and Germany could be utilised as a model of best practice for creating media that can be shared following a period of conflict, and can also help to further integrate a reunited Cyprus with the rest of Europe. This could serve as a platform for common media institutions in a future Cyprus that will foster a sense of ownership amongst all Cypriots. Political will on behalf of decision makers is a key element to showing Cypriots that positive change can be achieved despite years of division.
Encourage media collaboration on a professional basis
Media professionals from both communities stand to benefit from working together. Collaborative work is taking place, but has remained under the radar due to its nature and delicacy in the current political situation. Journalists’ organisations, directors, and editors-in-chief should encourage their staff to work with colleagues from the other community and participate in events that concern all Cypriots. International organisations with an interest in supporting this process of integration, including the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe, should also pay attention to work along parameters that encourage solid and sustainable partnerships.
Strengthening the links between media and democracy in Cyprus
Media is an essential element of a democratic society, where fair and accurate reporting can provide citizens with the necessary tools and access to information required to make informed decisions. For media to fulfil its role, conditions for media pluralism and freedom of expression must be established where a diversity of voices can enrich debate and accurately reflect all segments of the population. Improving the quality of access to media, and in particular new media through the internet, is crucial to strengthening levels of media literacy in Cyprus, and the capabilities of Cypriots to connect with each other. In this process, civil society will have an important role to play in creating a space for dialogue and cooperation. Organisations such as CCMC, with reach into all communities, can play an important and strategic role in this process.