“Words That Matter” – glossary by Cypriot journalists to address local issues


On 10th of July in Nicosia, the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM) in cooperation with the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), and several local journalists, including members of EFJ affiliates Basin-Sen and Union of Cyprus Journalists,  has published “Words That Matter“, a trilingual glossary in English, Greek, and Turkish, to list phrases and words, used by the journalists in communities, which may be taken sensitively.

The glossary resulted from a common effort between the organisations to minimise hate speech in journalism, as well as trying to overcome the long-lasting tensions between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. The booklet was built upon the expertise of cooperating organisations and strong sense of shared responsibility to take up the challenge of identifying the entries and finding possible alternatives, under expert leadership of Aidan White, President of the Ethical Journalism Network.

The publication is a center part of the Cyprus Dialogue project, which in less than 2 years managed to bring the local media organisations together to sign a memorandum of understanding and engage the young journalists in both communities in youth exchange for gaining the experience of working in the opposite community and drafting great investigative stories during their time on the other side of the island.

“This glossary will start a new era in Cyprus, as journalists will begin to discuss, improve and even criticize it”, says Ali Kişmir, president of Basin-Sen, Press Worker’s Union of Cyprus.

It was drafted by experienced journalists in Cyprus which identified the words and terminology other community may feel uncomfortable with. “The glossary will not answer all the questions, but will start a dialogue and discussion between the journalists of two communities,” comments Ali Kişmir. 

Publication will act as a reference tool for journalists to use in their everyday work completely voluntarily, without imposing or restricting the use of typical words, but instead, offering explanations of why and how the use of certain words may be perceived by the other community. The glossary aims to raise awareness of the impact of language used by journalists, and assist them in shaping a new information landscape in Cyprus. Adopting the glossary in the everyday work may contribute to a better understanding between the communities as well as enhance quality of journalism, based on the approach that pluralistic media, ethical and quality journalism are essential in every society.

As an active member of the Ethical Journalism Network, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) reminds journalists “shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins” (IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists). “More than ever before, facing with news likely to feed the hate speech, it is important that journalists use the right words to describe situations they cover. Choices about words do matter. We strongly support the Cypriot glossary initiative,” says Ricardo Gutiérrez, EFJ General Secretary.

Find the full publication here.