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Integrated anti-discrimination campaign (Cyprus)

September 20th 2012

 (Click to enlarge picture)

Organised by the Office of the Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman)
1) Brief description of the campaign

Anti-discrimination campaign held between 1/12/2009 and 30/11/2010 that included several actions and targeted a wide range of audiences.

2) General objectives of the campaign

The general goals and objectives were, firstly and most significantly, to raise awareness and sensitize the general public on issues of discrimination; secondly, to inform selected stakeholders on issues of discrimination; thirdly, to identify – for policy making purposes – the needs of certain vulnerable groups; and, lastly, to promote some good practices in combating discrimination.

3) Target audiences

The general public (which was reached by a media campaign, a theatre play, information leaflets and the website of the Equality Body);

Journalists (who were targeted by the Guiding Principles on how the Media can Contribute and Assist in Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination);

Employers (who were reached by the Code of Good Practices on Combating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities in the Field of Employment and Occupation);

Trade Unions (that were reached through a seminar for training union members on antidiscrimination legislation, a Code of Good Practices for People with Disabilities in Employment, and a series of surveys – the results of which can be useful to trade unions);

Relevant Public Authorities, mainly the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Interior (that were targeted by two surveys – the results of which can be useful for policy making purposes, a training seminar on gender mainstreaming in migration policies and practices, and a conference on minority rights).

4) Stakeholders involved and the difficulties encountered and surpassed while managining the relationship with them

The initiative had implications for a number of relevant stakeholders, as follows:

Policy Makers

The results of two surveys and of a training seminar on gender mainstreaming in migration policies and practices, as well as a conference on minority rights were useful for policies regarding migration and minorities.

Mass media – journalists

The media campaign involved the mass media of Cyprus in the initiative and ensured their contribution and assistance in the conveyance of the antidiscrimination messages to the general public. Furthermore, the Guiding Principles on How the Media can Contribute and Assist in Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination as helpful to individual journalists in their day to day work, as well as to owners and/or managers of media organisations.


  • Two of the actions were done in collaboration with two NGOs dealing with gender issues
  • In drafting the Code of Good Practices for People with Disabilities in Employment and Occupation, the views of the Cyprus Confederation of Organizations of the Disabled were taken into account. The Confederation consists of a number of NGOs dealing with disability issues. Several copies of the Code were sent to the Confederation to distribute to its members;
  • Representatives of selected NGOs were invited to participate in some of the events organised, such as a seminar on gender mainstreaming in migration policies, and the presentation of a survey’s results.

Trade Unions/Employers associations

  • The Code of Good Practices on Combating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities in the Field of Employment and Occupation was a helpful guide to both trade unionists and employers. Helpful information on
    antidiscrimination legislation was also provided to trade unionists in a seminar organized by the Ombudsman.

The main difficulties came in implementing the media campaign, mainly in relation to the media ads which had a message against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation:

  • On June 9th a press conference was organized for the launching of the campaign during which the media ads were presented. Some journalists expressed concern as to whether the sexual orientation ads were too “progressive” for the conservative Cypriot society and would cause negative reactions. One journalist even reacted herself negatively to the ads arguing that they were “encouraging” homosexuality;
  • During the campaign, our Office received some complaints – in total about 30 - regarding the sexual orientation ads – both in terms of their content as well as the “inappropriate” – according to the complainants - time of the day they were broadcasted.
  • One of the radio stations that were originally selected for the radio campaign was the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (Cybc -, which is the public broadcaster of the Republic of Cyprus. However, when the radio spots were sent to the Cybc and they were listened to, the general director of the corporation decided not to broadcast the radio spot on sexual orientation. Over a telephone conversation, he informed the Ombudsman that he could not allow the radio spot on sexual orientation to be played, because, as he said, Cybc is a public organisation. Immediately our Office decided to withdraw all ads from Cybc. Later on, and within the framework of an interview, the general director, referring to homosexuality, stated that the Cybc may accept that such “phenomena” exist and may tolerate them, but it has no obligation to put them on air.

 (Click to enlarge picture) The decision of the general director of Cybc and his above-mentioned comment sparked a public dialogue in the media and many columnists wrote articles in newspapers and magazines in relation to this matter (attachments soon to follow). The vast majority of these articles were critical of the controversial decision and in favor of the campaign. Furthermore, a group on Facebook was created, named “say no to all kinds of discrimination”, in which all the ads of the campaign were uploaded and people discussed the campaign as well as the decision of the Cybc.

In view of these reactions, on June 22nd the Governing Council of Cybc revoked/annulled the controversial decision of the general director and decided to allow the transmission/broadcasting of the radio spot against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In light of this development the Ombudsman re-modified its schedule and for the rest of the campaign it transmitted/broadcasted the radio spots also on Cybc.

Some difficulties were also faced in persuading the major relevant stakeholders to support the effort with respect to the campaign booklets. Such stakeholders were the Union of Cyprus Journalists and the Cyprus
Media Complaints Commission, which is an independent press council, responsible for the self-regulation of the news media on the basis of a written “Journalists’ Code of Practice”. Their reservations were based mainly on their concerns for overlap of competences between them and our Office (as an Equality Body), as well as concerns for issues relating to the right of freedom of speech. After many efforts, though - which included exchange of letters, a meeting on June 16th 2011 and some modifications in the text of the booklet - the written support of the major implicated parties for the Guiding Principles was secured.

5) Resources and budget

Main sources of funding: the European Commission (79%) and the Republic of Cyprus (21%). These funds amounted to 196.761 Euros overall.

6) Detailed description of the communication channels used and messages conveyed. How did the organisers connect with their audiences? Possible pitfalls to be avoided.

The Ombudsman:

  • organized a nationwide media campaign on issues of discrimination which included TV, Radio and Newspaper ads;
  • published a Code of Good Practices on Combating Discrimination Against People with Disabilities in the Field of Employment and Occupation;
  • published a booklet which codifies a set of Guiding Principles on how the Media can Contribute and Assist in Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination;
  • published two information leaflets - one for each department in the Office dealing with discrimination issues - in a user-friendly design and a size easy to distribute;
  • constructed a website specifically for the antidiscrimination spectrum of the Office’s competences and activities;
  • organized, in cooperation with the Cypriot Labour Institute, a training seminar to train union members on anti-discrimination legislation;
  • organized, in cooperation with the parliamentary representatives of the three recognized religious/ethnic minorities of Cyprus, a one day event that included a conference in the morning and a cultural event in the afternoon on the rights, protection and contribution of these minorities to Cypriot society;
  • provided financial support to: (1) a theatre group to produce a theatre play which addressed xenophobic attitudes towards immigrants and promoted respect for ethnic diversity; (2) an NGO working on gender issues to organize a training seminar on gender mainstreaming in migration policies and practices; (3) another NGO working on gender issues, to conduct a survey aiming to sketch the profile of the economic female immigrants in Cyprus and to identify their needs for personal and professional development; (4) the Labour Institute to upgrade its antidiscrimination website, and to conduct a qualitative survey aimed at identifying the forms of discrimination suffered by migrant workers in the hotel and food industries in

7) Explanation of the mechanism put in place to evaluate and monitor the campaign

An officer from the Office was delegated with the responsibility of monitoring the campaign, the contacts with the European Commission, the management of the budget and the submission of the evaluation form. He was assisted by other officers and the Ombudsman herself.

8) Lessons learned and pitfalls to be avoided

The most important outcome of the initiative was the media campaign because, firstly, it managed to send its antidiscrimination message to a significant part of society and, secondly, because it was the action that was
most widely discussed - touching upon, explicitly and for the first time through mass media, the issue of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The fact that the negative reactions were not only less than previously feared, but that they provoked strong counter-reactions which benefited the campaign, was in a sense a “lesson learned” that the Cyprus society was/is, at the end of the day, readier than anticipated to accept the antidiscrimination message on this matter, which by many is still considered a taboo.

Another important outcome was that, for the implementation of the initiative, the Ombudsman was able to cooperate/work together with seven other national stakeholders. This cooperation has not only assisted the Ombudsman in better achieving the aims of the initiative, but it has also allowed it to build partnerships for combating discrimination in the future.

9) Additional information

The initiative could be considered sucessful considering that:

  • The media campain reached a significant part of the population and it received mostly favorable comments by the public and the media;
  • A very lagre number of people attended/participated in the events organised;
  • For the events for which evaluation surveys were distributed, the overwhelming majority of the responses were positive or very positive;
  • The Ombudsman was able to cooperate with a number of other national stakeholders and build closer relationships that could lead to effective partnerships for combating discrimination in the future.