Cypriot newspaper banned from publishing leaked emails 

By Emil Weber

On 10th January, a Cypriot court issued a decree that prohibits the Politis newspaper from publishing or republishing emails of the Deputy Attorney General Ms. Eleni Lοizidou. Politis said it will appeal the decree. During late 2017 Politis published stories resulting from leaked emails of top legal officials, revealing their connections to Russia. 

Cyprus Supreme Court CourtCyprus, Supreme Court of Justice old square Nicosia Republic of Cyprus Cyprus 2, CC BY-SA 3.0

At the centre of the affair was the Deputy-Attorney General, Ms. Eleni Loizidou, caught in private email communications with Russian officials. The Politis reporting on November 26 revealed that Ms. Loizidou had provided advice on extradition cases. The email communication, among others, related to the international financier Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital. Interpol has refused to extradite him following a trial in absentia in Russia.

The trial was deemed by the European Union to be politically motivated. This material was first published from a Russian website, Kompromat. 

Interviewed in the Guardian Ms. Loizidou subsequently denied any wrongdoing. “Loizidou staunchly denied wrongdoing and said she was just as ‘friendly’ with Russian counterparts as she was with American and British colleagues. She claimed it was her duty to inform foreign counterparts of information in extradition cases and only selected emails showing her dealings with Russia had been published”, the UK newspaper reported.

However, a disciplinary investigation was launched into the case, Ms. Loizidou was suspended and later transferred to another department, Cyprus media reported.  Following the publication of more emails by Politis, the Attorney General warned journalists, invoking the laws against interfering in police or other official investigations, according to the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission.

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission backed the publication.

“The Commission […] notes that every person’s good name and privacy must be respected”, CMCC said in a statement on 7th December. “However, as pointed out in the Code [of ethics], in exceptional cases and when they have no other means of obtaining information, media operators can circumvent the provision, provided that it strictly serves the public interest”.

CMCC’s view was criticised by the Auditor General, Mr. Odysseas Michaelides, in a post on his Facebook account. 

Mr. Michaelides maintained that, based on Cypriot law, “anyone who intercepts or transmits private content without court approval, commits a criminal offence with a five-year prison sentence”. He said that CMCC view was “unacceptable and provocative”.

In later publications by Politis, both Mr. Michaelides and Mr. Costas Clerides, the Attorney General, appeared in Ms. Loizidou’s communications.

“Officials attempt to silence our newspaper”

Mr. Dionysis Dionysiou, the Politis news director, described to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) the actions of the officials since the first report.

“Attorney General Costas Clerides has asked the police to conduct a criminal investigation into the leak of the e-mails of Ms. Loizidou. He alleged that there had been a violation of her personal data, a crime that would be punished by up to five years imprisonment. He warned the media to stop publishing [them]”, Mr. Dionysiou said. “You can see that there is a double threat: first [he] ordered an inquiry into the disclosure of the material, but also said that its publication was a criminal offence, just to put us in the picture as well”.

Mr. Dionysiou said the Attorney General made these statements “after taking three days to  make the decision to suspend Ms. Loizidou”. “His first thought was not what Ms. Loizidou did based on the material, but to punish her for disclosure. He then invoked the Criminal Code to hinder the investigation and told the media to stop publishing. He did that despite the Personal Data Commissioner's opinion that the public interest goes beyond the personal data protection of Ms. Loizidou”.

According to the Politis news director, Mr. Clerides was motivated to undertake such actions because he was himself involved in the leaked material. He said that the other official involved, the Auditor General Mr. Odysseas Michaelides, denounced the newspaper to the police and “demanded the prosecution of the Politis journalists ”. Ms. Loizidou herself, he added, has also requested a court ruling that would be “a decree to terminate every publication by the newspaper”. This has now been granted, on 10th January.

Two million euros compensation claim

“Ms. Loizidou has also initiated a claim for up to EUR 2 million in compensation because of the damage she allegedly suffered from our reports. She did that claiming the above amount for violation or her rights and as a final injunction against us”, Mr. Dionysiou said.   

According to him, Ms. Loizidou’s defence lawyer has commented  that the view of the Personal Data Commissioner was “invalid and legally unfounded”.

Mr. Dionysiou said the actions of the officials were an “attempt to silence our newspaper”.

“In a European country it is not possible to make such threats”, Mr. Dionysiou said. “Things might be worse if the Cyprus Police blindly obeyed the instructions of the Attorney General who asked for the confiscation of our computers and mobile phones…Politis is accustomed to this type of pressure. We usually accept pressure and threats from racists, nationalists, criminals and corrupt politicians. This time our frustration is great because we feel that we have been chased by state officials who must be the custodians of democracy and free thinking”.

Mr. Dionysiou said that the leaked emails were first published by the Russian website Kompromat. “We […] believe that the disclosure of these emails served the public interest and also served to observe the laws regarding the human rights of fellow human beings”.




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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –