For many years now on both sides of the island, both communities have been reading newspapers (and probably other content too) that seem to highlight the estrangement, bitterness and finger-pointing that exists between the two communities: Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island and Greek Cypriots in the south.
Or at least the media on both sides are encapsulating these feelings.
In the media of the south, it’s hard to miss the ‘inverted commas’ around ‘parliament’ and ‘deputy’ and ‘minister.’ An article splattered with words such as illegal parliament, illegal Tymbou airport (or Ercan) and the illegal visit of so and so. Let me just point out here that Tymbou airport never existed as such before the island’s division in 1974, it was simply an airfield. One of my absolute favourite phrases is the self-styled ‘Deputy Prime Minister’.
There is even a particular news portal of the south which gives a brief history at the end of each of their articles pertaining to the Cyprus problem, noting that the island has been divided since 1974, due to a Turkish invasion. As I was writing this blog post, I found a UK-based news portal, aimed at Turks and Turkish Cypriots living abroad I presume, which also felt the need to give a brief history at the end of some of its articles, this time honing in on the events of 1963. I understand that they feel the need to clarify certain aspects of history given that they imagine foreigners will be reading the article, but unfortunately they are trying to put history in a neat little box. As we know this is hardly possible. History is not just the events of 1963 and/or 1974.
In the media of the north, you get the likes of ‘Rum basını’ meaning Greek press and references to ‘Rum yönetimi başkanı Nikos Anastasiades’, meaning Nikos Anastasiades president of the Greek administration.
Of course, this does not apply to all news portals. Some have been clever enough to cooperate, enabling them to rise above the political situation, sharing news stories from both sides of the island in each other’s newspapers, with a rather less insulting glossary of terms.
As a journalist myself I remember writing such stories and having to be told what the correct terms were for that particular newspaper.
Why have I chosen though to talk about this now? Last week, I took a decision or let’s call it a vow to stop reading the island’s English language newspapers, or at least for them to not be my first port of call. As such I decided to only read Greek and Turkish language newspapers of the island. As a result I started paying closer attention to the different ways in which each newspaper refers to each side and its institutions.
Unfortunately, it turns out that putting inverted commas around certain words or calling certain job titles or visits to the north illegal does not change anything. But look, even I’m doing it here. I have carefully chosen my words, and carefully referred to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as simply the north. I cannot offer a solution – at least for the moment – I am simply speaking as a journalist and someone who reads the island’s newspapers in all three languages now and notices the power of such words.
- Hitting the pause button
- The power of ‘words’ (part 2)