As The President spoke about a lack of vision on the part of the media, it was noticeable that aside from 1 independent freelancer with a camera, there were no other lenses or microphones in sight. A packed audience had gathered to celebrate the 15 years of broadcasting by Astra Radio. The station, established as an alternative to a rather staid musical and biased agenda news setting media landscape had every reason to celebrate. Just surviving beyond year 1 was an achievement, particularly as back then most advertisers avoided Astra like the bubonic plague due its progressive agendas. But as time past things changed and now the station is ranked as one of the most popular in Cyprus. I have worked on the radio station or perhaps I have joined the Astra family just over a year ago. Presenting OuterNational, a weekly Reggae show (Sundays 11-midnight) I finally feel at home on air. There are no egos. No back biting and pent up frustrations of radio stardom, which I have witnessed at most other stations I have worked on (or joined) in Cyprus.

Astra, due to its progressive agenda, is obviously very close to President Christofias heart. It was no surprise then that he chose this historic celebration to announce a new government initiative on enlightening the public on a federal solution. This announcement came as a big relief as there is a real need for creating a shared vision of what a future Cyprus could be like. In his speech Christofias questioned an apparently innate slant in the Greek Cypriot media to always highlight the negative news on the current negotiations with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. So any positive news or developments are always overshadowed by dark storm clouds. The media themselves have never even questioned their own future, presuming of course that we all agree that the Cyprus problem will one day be solved. For example, has any one in the media ever addressed the challenging issue of how a solution will possibly affect them? What would a federal media landscape look like? By focusing on self-manufactured demons, we always suffer from an excessively negative and pusillanimous esotericism.  Realistically who else writes and talks about the Cyprus Problem more than the Cyprus media. And if any brave media student wants to do an interesting study, I would suggest content analysis of coverage along the positive and negative axis.

A day later, I was at the launch of The Cyprus Community Centre (CCMC) at Ledra Palace. The Centre, supported by UNDP-ACT aims to provide a media voice to NGOs engaged in reconciliation, multiculturalism and diversity. Effectively this does not mean a barrage of new media will emerge, but that NGOs will now be able to make their own content for dissemination via the web and mass media. CCMC was launched by  The Elders, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Lakhdar Brahimi. Desmond Tutu speech reminded me of Christofias comments the night before, on negative agenda setting. As the spiritual leader said:

‘ I remember on one occasion I was at a funeral of someone that had been killed by the police and I said: “We want peace, we oppose violence!” On television that evening they showed me speaking at this funeral and saying “violence!”. Not “we oppose violence”. They covered up that whole part. So I was seen as someone promoting violence.’

This kind of deliberate editing occurs every day in the media. Filtering the news is in many ways unavoidable. But when something is so constructed, so orchestrated, one has to question the very foundation of the mass media and to challenge, in every situation where these kinds of misrepresentations occur, their validity. In doing this, by adopting a more critical approach we have to question not only what is being said, and how distorted it may be,  but also what is being deliberately left out.  

Dimitris Christofias, whether people voted for him or not, as The President of The Republic of Cyprus, is daring to tread where no other President has ever ventured before. By questioning the manner in which media consent is manufactured he is calling for a different approach. The vision of a federal Cyprus has to be considered fairly and objectively, and the media, irrespective of copy policy or political bias, have to finally wake up to this mission.

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