BEN FOGLE SHOW BRANDED BIASED
● OFCOM LOOKING INTO COMPLAINTS ABOUT CYPRUS DOCUMENTARY ● TV SHOW ‘FELT MORE LIKE A UNITED NATIONS PR PROGRAMME’ ● CHANNEL 5 SAYS LOST WORLDS EPISODE ‘ACCURATE AND BALANCED’
A NEW British TV programme about Cyprus has been blasted as “biased” against Turkish Cypriots.
In an episode of the Channel 5 series Lost Worlds, presenter Ben Fogle is sent “on a mission to understand what followed the brutal war in the 1970s that left Cyprus split in two and displaced a third of its population”.
The programme was filmed earlier this year, with Mr Fogle and his film crew given special access by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) to film in the buffer zone dividing North and South Cyprus, in places such as the abandoned Nicosia International Airport.
However the programme has been slammed by many viewers for its numerous references to the Turkish “invasion” of Cyprus, with no explanation of the reasons for Turkey’s military intervention launched on July 20, 1974.
In one scene filmed at Nicosia International Airport, Fogle asks a former Cyprus Airways pilot called “Adamos”, who once worked at the airport, “how does it feel to have your country invaded?”
Adamos replies: “My feelings on that night, coming in and seeing my island surrounded with Turkish ships, ready to invade . . . I’ll never recover from that.”
After a pause, Mr Fogle then places his
hand on Adamos’s shoulder to console him.
A UK-based group called the Young Turkish Cypriots (YTC) said in a statement that the Lost Worlds episode, first broadcast on November 3, featured a “large amount of time spent with UN troops and Greek Cypriots” and “felt more like a United Nations PR programme than a balanced overview of the Cyprus problem”.
“Out of the six segments of the programme,
two were spent with Greek Cypriots, two with UN soldiers, one with a bicommunal band, and one segment with a Turkish Cypriot family,” they said.
“It was very apparent that Fogle prioritised the Greek Cypriot story and promoting the UN rather than the Turkish Cypriot story and sharing how they had suffered years prior to Turkey’s legal intervention in 1974.
“Even when entering North Cyprus, the first people Fogle spoke to were Greek Cypriots.”
The YTC noted that “throughout the programme, Fogle attempted to legitimise the UN’s failing position in Cyprus and justify why they are so necessary to maintaining the ‘peace’,” and that he “failed to mention that the UN arrived in 1964, 10 years prior to Turkey’s intervention”.
The YTC statement continued: “The UN mission in Cyprus should be deemed nothing short of a total failure, [but] instead they were glorified throughout Fogle’s programme. . . Fogle’s perception of the UN presence in Cyprus is extremely outdated and this was evident during the show.
“The UN are one of the main perpetrators [of] the status quo and their job of ‘maintaining the peace’ has been carried out more effectively by Turkey over the last 48 years.”
The YTC pointed out that Ben Fogle “continuously referred to the Cyprus Peace Operation carried out by Turkey in 1974 as an ‘invasion’,” noting that it was in fact Greece that invaded Cyprus on July 15, 1974.
“Turkey legally intervened on the island five days later to restore order and prevent both a mass genocide of the Turkish Cypriot people and the mass killing of over 10,000 Greek Cypriots,” the YTC statement said.
“They did this by legally invoking their right under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee-Article IV.”
The YTC also gave examples of “throwaway comments” made by Fogle that were “often historically incorrect”, such as saying that the “Cyprus problem began in 1960 with both communities pushing their agendas”, when in fact, the YTC said, the “Cyprus problem began in the 1950s with the formation of the Greek Cypriot terrorist group Eoka and their pursuit of Enosis (union with Greece)”.
A remark by Fogle that Nicosia International Airport brought “economic benefits for all Cypriots” was also criticised, with the YTC saying that the airport terminal was built while the “Turkish Cypriot people were enclaved and oppressed” and that they “experienced none of the economic benefits of the airport as they were completely isolated”.
The YTC said Fogle also “provided no context” about the opening up of parts of the former ghost town of Maraş/Varosha on the east coast of the TRNC.
They said he instead chose to focus on “the suffering of Greek Cypriot refugees”, with no reference to the hundreds of former Greek Cypriot residents who have applied to the TRNC’s Immovable Property Commission, and the land ownership rights in Maraş of the Turkish Cypriot Cyprus Foundations Administration (Evkaf).
“Despite Fogle meeting a Turkish Cypriot family and sharing some of the Turkish Cypriot story, like the events of 1963 . . . the horrific ethnic cleansing campaign against the Turkish Cypriots . . . was not mentioned at all,” the YTC said.
“Eoka and Enosis were left out completely, despite these two factors being at the root cause of the Cyprus problem. . . The programme was unfortunately nothing original and provided no new insight into the issue.
“It instead showed a large Greek Cypriot bias, romanticised the UN and sidelined the Turkish Cypriot side of events.”
A spokesperson for the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom told Cyprus Today that it had received 65 complaints about the broadcast as of November 7, serious enough for the matter to be published in Ofcom’s weekly audience complaints report.
The spokesperson said the complaints “related to alleged bias against Turkish Cypriots”.
“We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, before deciding whether or not to investigate,” the spokesperson added. “Any investigations will be announced in a Broadcast Bulletin.”
A spokesperson for Channel
5 provided the following written statement to this paper: “This episode of Lost Worlds covers a complex story which we were keen to portray in a fair and objective way.
“Throughout the film, Ben speaks to both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and by hearing from both sides, the film gives an accurate and balanced representation of this important and complicated story.
“We worked closely with a leading, independent consultant on the subject throughout the production process to ensure that the film gives an accurate and balanced representation.”
The Channel 5 spokesperson did not respond to a request for further information about the “independent consultant” referred to in the statement.
Unficyp spokesperson Aleem Siddique told Cyprus Today he had “nothing to say on this programme”, before adding that “we co-operate with a variety of media on a routine basis”.