UNION OF CYPRUS JOURNALISTS

 

UNION OF CYPRUS JOURNALISTS
History, achievements, problems, targets and prospects

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Efforts for the establishment of a professional organisation of the press family of Cyprus in the form of a trade union organisation started in the early 1930's but for a long time they had no practical result due to insurmountable objective and subjective difficulties.

A determined and fruitful effort was made in 1959 with the termination of the British colonial rule of the island, year of the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960. That same year the Union of Cyprus Journalists was established.

The founding members were 27 and all worked as professional journalists in a daily and several weekly newspapers. The Union had a seven-member committee: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and three councillors.

The aims and targets were clear: To strengthen and safeguard the freedom of the press, to defend the right to free expression and opinion, to protect the independence, freedoms and rights of journalists, to improve their professional position and to regulate the conditions of their employment through a collective agreement, to raise the standard of journalism and to train journalists. To exclude any dependence of the Union on political parties or any other dependence, with the right of its equal cooperation with the unions of journalists of other countries, regional and international organisations, the guideline being always the principles of its charter and its aims.

The achievements of the struggles and efforts of the Union of Cyprus Journalists have been many and notable. We set them out in brief:
1. Collective Agreement
A collective agreement the Union signed, from the first years of its establishment, with the Association of Publishers of Newspapers and Periodicals, regulated the conditions of employment of all professional journalists working in the print press. The agreement, renewed and improved every two or three years, secures to journalists:
Salary scales from 650 to more than 2000 Cyprus pounds (1100 to more than 4000 US dollars) as monthly emoluments, with annual increases proportionate to the increase in productivity in the national economy and automatic cost of living readjustments twice a year (January and July) on the basis of the cost index increase.
An extra salary at the end of the year.
An annual rest allowance equivalent to half the monthly gross emoluments of the journalist.
A night shift allowance.
A provident fund, with the employer contributing 7% of the journalists total emoluments and the journalist contributing 4.5%. The amounts of money accumulated in the fund are no subject to taxation and are paid to the journalist on his/her retirement.
A Medical Treatment Fund with a 1.90% contribution by the employer and 1.15% by the journalist. This Fund secures medical-pharmaceutical cover to the Unions members and their dependents.
A five-day working week with a total of 40 hours of work (this number is theoretical because the reality is that journalists work more hours).
Twenty to twenty-eight days rest annually.
Payment for Sunday work twice the normal pay.
Fifteen days-holiday annually.
2. Supplementary Pension Scheme
It has been in force since the early 1980's providing to 30 retired journalists and to their widows a monthly grant which ranges from 50 to 120 Cyprus pounds (100 to 240 US dollars). The revenue for the Scheme comes from the annual lottery organised by the Union of Journalists and from a state grant provided in return for the publicity given by the local press to the state lottery and the state bonds.
3. Journalists Village
This was created on a coastal site, six kilometres from Larnaca International Airport, on land provided to the Union Cyprus Journalists by the state, with help of private organisations and part of the proceeds from the annual lottery of journalists. It consists of 14 houses (6 with two bedrooms and 8 with one bedroom), fully equipped, a multiple use hall used as cafeteria-restaurant , a conference Hall, a grocery, childrens playground and sports area. The Journalists Village is used round the year for the rest of journalists and their families at special prices. Journalists from other countries can also use the village, again at special prices.
4. House of Journalists
A large and extremely important project of the Union of Cyprus Journalists is ready in Nicosia. This is the Journalists House. It is a great building which houses the offices of the Union, the Sports and Writers Associations, the Athens News Agency, the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission, the Museum and Archives of Cyprus Press, a Conference Hall with a capacity of about 320 persons, a library, a cafe-restaurant and spaces for other facilities.
5. Press Rights and Freedoms
The question of freedom of the press is always in the focus of attention of the Union of Cyprus Journalists. As a result of its efforts and cooperation, in various cases, with the Association of Publishers, the press legislation has been liberalised to a large extent through the abolition of a series of illiberal provisions and the introduction of liberal provisions such as the safeguarding of press confidentiality and the recognition, yet only in theory, of the right to access to the sources of information-state and private ones. Nevertheless, various illiberal clauses still remain in the criminal code whilst the public service law establishes confidentiality as a rule with regard to state documents, limiting access to information and the citizens right to unobstructed information.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists insists on the elimination of all these illiberal provisions and the full safeguarding of the rights and, real clearness and pluralism in the media, print and electronic, and the journalists independence to carry out their mission. To this end it supports the enactment of a modern and liberal legislation on the press and radio-television, the protection and support of public broadcasting and television, the functioning of private broadcasting and the combating of any tendency towards, and danger of medial concentration and oligopoly.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists is represented in the Radio- Television Advisory Committee and the Administrative Council of the Cyprus News Agency and in various cases it is invited to parliamentary committees to express its views when matters that concern the media are discussed. Through this practice the Union contributes positively and practically to the strengthening and effective protection of the rights and freedoms of the press and journalists.
6. Ethics
Moreover, the Union of Cyprus Journalists has made a continuous and consistent effort for the introduction of an Ethics Code and the establishment of a Press Code of conduct Committee made up by representatives of journalists and the media owners, which will ensure observance of, and compliance with, the code. The Committee was established and is functioning since some years ago. The Union has formally adopted the Declaration of Principles of the International Federation of Journalists and was included in its Constitution as a binding provision, along with supplementary provision in accordance to practices in force and acceptable by other national Unions of Journalists, and the establishment of a Rules and Ethics Committee with special responsibility to watch over the compliance with the principles and rules of the ethics code.
7. Violation of trade union rights
One of the most serious problems faced by the Union of Cyprus Journalists during the last years has been the refusal of the electronic media owners to accept collective negotiations and a collective agreement on the conditions of employment of journalists working in this media. This constitutes a flagrant violation of fundamental trade union rights and freedoms, and the Union of Journalists is accelerating its efforts for its termination and ensuring compliance of the owners of the electronic Media with the provision of the Law on Private Broadcasting obliging them to bargain with the Journalists Union and regulate the conditions of employment of journalists on the basis of a collective agreement.
8. For the reunification of Cyprus
The Union of Cyprus Journalists is seeking in every possible manner to develop contacts, relations and cooperation with the associations of the Turkish Cypriot Journalists. Such contacts have taken place with the help of the UN representatives in the island, but the effort is being impeded by the insurmountable obstacles being placed and the partitionist policy being pursued by the regime controlled by the Turkish army and preventing the free movement of people all over the island. This is denial of fundamental human rights and abolition of basic freedoms of the press and journalists as well as of the other citizens of the island.
The Union of Cyprus Journalists cannot remain indifferent to this unacceptable state of affairs and is contributing to the efforts for the re-unification of the island and the safeguarding of the rights and freedoms of the entire people of Cyprus, both Greeks and Turks as well as other nationalities, on the basis of international law and the UN and E.U. principles and resolutions.

9. Other activities
The Union Cyprus Journalists:
Develops relations and has cooperation with other trade union organisations of the country, particularly printing workers and other sister branches of working people in the Media in regard to common problems and aims.
Organises seminars on professional subjects.
Holds cultural and other social events and organises public discussions and competitions on media-related subjects.
Publishes books connected with journalism or subsidises the publication of such books by journalists.
Is an active member of the International and the European Federation of Journalists, maintains relations with a number of Unions of Journalists and expresses its solidarity in many cases of persecution of journalists and violation of the freedom of the press in the world.
10. Membership and structure of the Union
At the end of 2004 Union of Cyprus Journalists has about 430 members (of which about 140 women). It practically embraces all the professional journalists of the country employed in newspapers, periodicals, the radio and the television and the news agencies of the island. The journalists working in public broadcasting are at the same time members of the Trade Union to which their entire staffs belongs. Eligible to join the Union of Cyprus Journalists are professional journalists, regardless of ethnic origin, race and religion, provided they work in the local media, gain their means of live hood mainly from journalism and have at least six months service in the profession. Foreign journalists working in Cyprus can become members of the Union as an autonomous entity with their own Association.

The Executive Committee of the Union consists of nine members (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and five Councillors) and is elected at every third annual general meeting of the members. The annual membership fee is 0,5% of the monthly salary of the member. There are local committees of journalists at the places of work which are elected during meetings of the staff of each Media, deal with local problems and constitute the liaison with the Executive Committee of the organisation.

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2005