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Press Law

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he approved the statement of the Colonial Secretary of Cyprus that he might have to suppress some newspapers in the island for attacking the Government; and whether he proposes to assent to actions under laws passed in 1931, during a period of violence, at a time when no violence is occurring.

After consultation with me, a warning was issued to the Press by the Colonial Secretary of Cyprus to the effect that the continued use of the Press to subvert the machinery of government or for incitement to disorder might entail the use by the Colonial Secretary of his power, which was first conferred upon him by Law No. 26 of 1934, to cancel or suspend any permit granted under the law where he is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so. So long as the existing Press law of Cyprus remains in force, the Governor must be left free to take action under it at his discretion, especially when, as was the case here, he is satisfied that the ownership of a newspaper was being regarded as a free licence to indulge in deliberate falsehoods in an attempt to bring the machinery of government to a standstill. The warning was given after a campaign of this nature had been carried on in certain sections of the Press for some months, and it did not relate to attacks upon Government.

Does my right hon. Friend think that it is a reputable democratic practice to suspend newspapers because they attack the Government, and does he not think that Cyprus is entitled to some form of democratic Government?

Cyprus is being invited at the present time to consider a democratic Government. This warning was not given because of attacks on the Government. I quite agree that to suppress a newspaper for such attacks would be quite wrong.

Would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that no Cyprus newspaper will be suppressed just because it publishes former speeches of Commander Fletcher?

Would it not be much better, in cases of this kind, not to proceed under these special Press laws, but, where offences can be proved, to proceed by the ordinary process of law through the courts?

But there has been no suppression here. All that has happened is that the Colonial Secretary has issued a warning in regard to subversive attacks.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a very serious matter, and can he, at any rate, give the House an assurance that there will be no prolongation of this state of affairs, and that he will consult with the Governor as to when full freedom can be restored?

No freedom has been denied; complete freedom is enjoyed at the present time by the Press in Cyprus.

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House on how many occasions newspapers in Cyprus have, in fact, been prosecuted for subversive activities, and with what results?

I am fully aware of the lamentable history of the Press law in Cyprus, and I am keeping a most watchful eye on the matter in order to prevent any irregularities arising.

Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to answer the question? I asked him on how many occasions newspapers in Cyprus have been prosecuted under the criminal law, and with what results.

As the right hon. Gentleman said he had issued some sort of warning, will he tell the House what sort of warning it was, and what they had been warned not to do?

I did not say that I myself had issued the warning. I said the Colonial Secretary issued it.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that the Colonial Secretary issued it after consulting the right hon. Gentleman? Surely, he is not going to try to shift all the responsibility on to the Colonial Secretary?

I am not attempting to shift the responsibility on to anyone. I said the warning had been issued by the Colonial Secretary after consultation with me.

Would it not be by far the most satisfactory solution to annul these very exceptional and undemocratic Press laws?