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Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2001

ISSN 1096-4886 http://www.westerncriminology.org/Western_Criminology_Review.htm
© 2001, The Western Criminology Review. All Rights Reserved.

The Portrayal of Crime in the Cypriot Media:
An Exploratory Study

Olga Tsoudis

Citation: Tsoudis, Olga. 2001. "The Portrayal of Crime in the Cypriot Media: An Exploratory Study." Western Criminology Review 3(1). [Online]. Available: http://www.westerncriminology.org/documents/WCR/v03n1/tsoudis/tsoudis.html

 

Abstract

Criminologists have examined the portrayal of crime in the United States’ media and its influences on society. They have also attempted to explain why the United States has such a high crime rate in comparison to other nations. However, there has been limited research on some nations with low crime rates. This project focuses on Cyprus (Greek Cypriots), a European nation with one of the lowest crime rates and a far less punitive justice system than the United States. I explore the significance of social sanctions, rather than legal sanctions, in the portrayal of crime in the media by using Cypriot media sources. Crime articles from a Cypriot newspaper are coded into a data set for analyses. The results indicate a focus on social aspects of criminal behavior in the Cypriot media. 


Keywords: Cyprus, crime, media, social sanctions, social stigma, foreign offenders, international criminal justice


The Portrayal of Crime in the Cypriot Media:
An Exploratory Study

Criminologists have examined the portrayal of crime and criminal justice in the media of the United States. However, there is controversy over whether the media accurately reflects society or is inaccurate or misleading. Several studies have demonstrated that there are significant differences between the media depiction of crime and actual crime (e.g., McDevitt 1996; Schlesinger, Tumber, and Murdock 1991). However, this may not be the case in other societies, and this research explores this possibility.

Furthermore, criminologists have also attempted to explain why the United States has such a high crime rate in comparison to other nations. However, some nations with low crime rates have not been included in this research. This project focuses on Cyprus (Greek Cypriots), which has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and a criminal justice system that is distinctively less punitive than that of the United States (CIA 1998). Although Cyprus has been studied extensively with respect to Greek-Turkish relations, other facets of Cypriot society have not been explored. For example, Cypriot society is characterized by cohesion, strong family ties, and philotomo (the love of honour). It is of interest to examine the relationship between the media, crime, and punishment in such a society.

This exploratory study of Cypriot media and crime focuses on evidence of coverage of social sanctions in the media’s portrayal of criminal justice. After briefly describing Cyprus and Greek Cypriot culture, particularly in relation to the role of the family and social sanctions, I review general literature on the relationship between media, society, and crime. I then discuss the Cypriot media and the influence of tourism on the island. I draw upon deterrence theory to frame the questions that guide my exploration of these themes. I conclude by discussing issues for further research.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON CYPRUS

Cyprus, an island of 3572 square miles (just over half the size of Connecticut in the U.S.A.), is located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Europe and the Middle East with a population of 748,982 (approximately 50 percent male, 50 percent female) (CIA World Factbook 1998). The majority (84.1 percent) of the population is Greek-speaking; 68.9 percent of the population lives in urban areas while 31.1 percent lives in rural areas (Cyprus Government 1997). The literacy rate of Cyprus is 94 percent and the unemployment rate is 3.3 percent. (CIA 1998). Sixteen percent of marriages end in divorce, which is quite low in contrast to the approximately fifty percent divorce level of other European nations (Cyprus Government 1997).

While the island has been a target of foreign invasions throughout history, Greek culture has continuously been preserved through the Greek language and Cypriot dialect, traditions, and customs (Peristiany 1966; Speros Basil Vryonis Center for Study of Hellenism 1999). The Eastern Orthodox religion has served as one of the most significant institutions in the Greek community, and has a heavy influence on Cypriot society. The church plays roles in both education and everyday living.

Britain’s control of Cyprus from 1878-1960 influenced the legal system and the government, which in turn affected the culture. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, the free southern part of the island (Greek Cypriot) has become highly prosperous, urbanized, educated, and highly traveled by tourists (Keefe and Solsten 1993). Even with these changes, local traditions and customs have remained. In contrast, the northern side of Cyprus, occupied by Turkey, has not been as successful in its development (Keefe and Solsten 1993; Kondonassis and Yesilada 1993).1

According to the Council of Europe, Cyprus has one of the lowest crime rates and one of the lowest prison populations among its surveyed members (Tartter 1993; Cyprus Government 1999). The average prison population remains constant at 225 prisoners, of whom 43 percent are foreigners. For overall crime in 1997, foreigners and tourists made up 24.5 percent of adult offenders (Cyprus Government 1998). Thus, not only is the criminal behavior of Cypriot citizens low in contrast to other nations, but foreigners tend to make up a good proportion of offenders.

We can obtain a clearer picture of crime in Cyprus by contrasting its crime rates with those of other nations.2 Table 1 gives statistics for Cyprus, Greece (a nation similar in culture yet larger than Cyprus), Japan (a nation expected to have low crime rates based on cohesion and community), and the United States. By comparing total crimes for these nations, we see that Cyprus had the lowest number of crimes per 100,000 population. With respect to the number of people incarcerated, Greece had the lowest incarceration rate, followed by Cyprus. The United States had the highest crime and incarceration rates among the four nations (Kangaspunta 1995).

 

Table 1

Crime Information for Cyprus, Greece, Japan ,and the US 1994

 

Characteristic

 

Cyprus

 

Greece

 

Japan

 

US

 

Population

 

734,000

 

10,426,000

 

124,790,000

 

260,651,000

 

Total recorded crimes

 

4,330

 

303,311

 

1,863,390

 

13,989,500

 

Crimes per 100,000

 

590

 

2909

 

1493

 

5368

 

Offense type

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homicide

 

12

 

298

 

1746

 

23330

 

Rape

 

7

 

258

 

1616

 

102220

 

Robberies

 

14

 

812

 

2684

 

618950

 

Theft

 

990

 

57343

 

1310077

 

9419100

 

Burglary

 

1291

 

37123

 

247661

 

2712800

 

Fraud

 

412

 

514

 

52047

 

*

 

Drugs

 

135

 

2531

 

23059

 

*

 

Punishment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adults

sentenced

 

628

 

78985

 

1141407

 

*

 

Life

 

2

 

14

 

45

 

*

 

Incarcerated

 

184

 

1713

 

46120

 

1443740

 

Incarcerated

per 100,000

 

25

 

16

 

37

 

554

* Missing data.
Source: United Nations Crime Survey (1995)


The United Nations (United Nations Crime Survey 1995) has gathered criminal justice information on Cyprus. Table 2 compares serious offenses in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990. According to this research, in 1990 there were four convictions for intentional homicide, three convictions for non-intentional homicide, 357 convictions for assaults, two convictions for robbery, 323 convictions for all thefts and 156 convictions for burglary. A total of 6007 individuals were convicted in 1990; 5883 adult males, 97 adult females, and 27 juvenile males. Only one offender was given life imprisonment, while fines were imposed 4116 times. The average length of prison time served was 4.9 months in 1990. The rate of incarceration was 88 per 100,000 people. Table 3 gives the prison population breakdown from 1986 to 1990 (United Nations Crime Survey 1995).

Table 2
United Nations Crime Survey
Serious Offenses 1986-1990

 

Offense

 

1986

 

1987

 

1988

 

1989

 

1990

 

Completed

homicide

 

8

 

4

 

8

 

6

 

12

 

Non-intentional homicide

 

1

 

0

 

3

 

2

 

0

 

All assaults

 

795

 

792

 

892

 

875

 

739

 

Major assaults

 

71

 

61

 

75

 

85

 

68

 

Robbery

 

8

 

23

 

14

 

23

 

12

 

Major thefts

 

1432

 

1528

 

1184

 

1268

 

1293

 

Burglary

 

1165

 

963

 

1308

 

1141

 

1187

Source: United Nations (1986-1990, 1995)

 

The Cypriot government’s collection of data indicates that 3969 serious offenses occurred in 1997 with the majority categorized as property offenses (Cyprus Government 1998). Men include ninety percent of offenders and are more likely to commit crimes than women. The average age for male offenders is 27.4 and for women 29.5. Foreigners in Cyprus, typically tourists on the island, account for fully one fourth of total convictions for serious offenses, which is 24.3 percent of all male offenders and 27.1 percent of all female offenders. About twenty-three percent of property crimes are committed by foreigners, which includes 40.9 percent of drug crimes and 36.7 percent of forgery (Cyprus Government 1998). These percentages are high considering the number of tourists relative to the number of residents on the island. Table 3 gives a prison population breakdown by gender (United Nations 1986-1990,1995). Table 4 presents the number of serious offenses reported to the police from 1976-1997. Not surprisingly, theft is the modal serious offense. Table 5 gives the social demographics of adult offenders for those same years.

Table 3
United Nations Crime Survey Data Prison Population 1986-1990

 

Category

 

1986

 

1987

 

1988

 

1989

 

1990

 

Adult males

 

355

 

308

 

320

 

309

 

441

 

Adult females

 

13

 

15

 

12

 

6

 

13

 

Juvenile males

 

159

 

98

 

114

 

91

 

93

 

Juvenile females

 

1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

0

 

Admissions

 

527

 

422

 

448

 

406

 

547

Source: United Nations (1986-1990, 1995)

 


Table 4

Table of Serious Offenses Reported to the Police 1976-1997

 

Offense

 

1976

 

1980

 

1985

 

1990

 

1994

 

1995

 

1996

 

1997

 

Public Disorder

 

243

 

88

 

90

 

122

 

139

 

190

 

179

 

235

 

Sexual offenses

 

50

 

26

 

21

 

6

 

19

 

22

 

19

 

27

 

Property

 

1383

 

1606

 

2851

 

2739

 

2732

 

2328

 

2812

 

2336

 

Assaults

 

126

 

140

 

75

 

95

 

137

 

154

 

146

 

136

 

Forgery

 

45

 

134

 

142

 

354

 

864

 

814

 

859

 

635

 

Total serious offenses

 

2072

 

2232

 

3562

 

3684

 

4304

 

4033

 

4529

 

3910

 

Number per 100,000

 

416

 

439

 

658

 

636

 

679

 

628

 

699

 

597

Source: Cyprus Government (1998)

 

Table 5

Social Demographics of Adult Offenders 1976-1997

 

Characteristic

 

1976

 

1980

 

1985

 

1990

 

1995

 

1996

 

1997

 

Social/

Demographics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Males

 

391

 

411

 

641

 

577

 

575

 

758

 

839

 

Females

 

23

 

42

 

56

 

55

 

53

 

53

 

70

 

Nationality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cypriots

 

363

 

396

 

577

 

484

 

464

 

579

 

686

 

Foreigners

 

51

 

57

 

120

 

148

 

164

 

232

 

223

 

Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illiterate

 

19

 

32

 

49

 

23

 

23

 

19

 

23

 

Primary

 

240

 

253

 

319

 

231

 

237

 

287

 

317

 

Secondary

 

141

 

148

 

284

 

330

 

305

 

431

 

464

 

College

 

11

 

19

 

43

 

45

 

50

 

70

 

100

 

Marital Status

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single

 

193

 

195

 

305

 

305

 

331

 

458

 

453

 

Married

 

204

 

237

 

344

 

276

 

248

 

257

 

349

 

Divorced

 

17

 

21

 

48

 

51

 

47

 

92

 

105

Source: Cyprus Government (1998)

 

Sentencing in Cyprus varies by nature of the crime, the gravity of the offense and the individual’s need for treatment (Cyprus Government 1998). Fines and imprisonment can be used in all crime categories; however, probation is only used for property offenses. The most common sentence is the monetary fine. Ninety-seven percent of convictions receive fines, .3 percent suspended prison sentences, and .5 percent imprisonment. In 1997, 750 individuals were sent to prison--721 males and 29 females.

Table 6 displays prison statistics from 1976-1997, demonstrating that punishment appears lenient and a large difference between the length of sentence assigned by the judge and the actual time spent in prison. The majority of prison terms are less than six months. In 1997, the median sentence is 2.9 months, yet the median time actually spent is 1.8 months.

 

Table 6

Prison Statistics 1976-1997

 

Characteristic

 

1976

 

1980

 

1985

 

1990

 

1994

 

1995

 

1996

 

1997

 

Length of sentence (in months)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mean

 

10.8

 

8.1

 

11.2

 

10.5

 

9.1

 

7.3

 

7.9

 

10.8

 

Median

 

3.4

 

4.3

 

4.2

 

4.2

 

5.3

 

3.4

 

3.0

 

2.9

 

Time Served (in months)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mean

 

3.4

 

6.0

 

5.1

 

4.8

 

5.0

 

4.8

 

3.5

 

4.4

 

Median

 

2.0

 

2.3

 

2.2

 

1.6

 

1.8

 

1.6

 

1.4

 

1.8

 

Males

 

326

 

240

 

40

 

537

 

466

 

659

 

844

 

721

 

Females

 

5

 

8

 

9

 

13

 

18

 

26

 

48

 

28

Source: Cyprus Government (1998)

Table 7 presents prisoners by offense type. It shows that in 1997, 750 adult offenders passed through the prison system. Prison capacity is approximately 250, so these offenders on average spent less twelve months in prison.

 

Table 7

Prisoners and Offenses 1976-1997

 

Offense

 

1976

 

1980

 

1985

 

1990

 

1994

 

1995

 

1996

 

1997

 

Public Disorder

 

3

 

1

 

0

 

2

 

8

 

0

 

3

 

2

 

Sexual offenses

 

9

 

9

 

14

 

7

 

4

 

5

 

16

 

23

 

Property offenses

 

87

 

57

 

92

 

44

 

93

 

94

 

116

 

131

 

Assaults

 

26

 

16

 

46

 

111

 

22

 

23

 

53

 

38

 

Forgery

 

6

 

2

 

7

 

16

 

27

 

14

 

26

 

27

 

Motor offenses

 

4

 

16

 

57

 

15

 

1

 

11

 

12

 

10

 

TOTAL

 

331

 

248

 

479

 

550

 

484

 

685

 

892

 

750

Source: Cyprus Government (1998)

 

Cyprus has participated in the Crime Prevention and Drug Control Committee with the United Nations. The government has actively taken a fight against drugs in the southern part of the island. Although Cyprus appears relatively drug-free, the government is still concerned about the importation of drugs, especially through tourism. The government has a policy, created by a national committee, to combat drugs including messages to Cypriots about the dangers associated with them (Cyprus Government 1999).

SOCIETY AND CULTURE

We can explore the influences of Cypriot culture on crime by looking at local traditions and customs. Because research on the relationship between Cypriot society and crime is scarce, examining the family is one avenue by which we can understand the society, since the family directly influences individual behaviors and the overall functioning of the society (Georgas et al. 1997). This research suggests that Cypriot society has distinctive characteristics. Importantly, it is described as cohesive, and less individualistic, in contrast to other societies (e.g., Georgas 1991; Georgiou 1995). These characteristics are consistent with the focus of this paper on the importance of social sanctions.

Related to these characteristics, researchers find that the extended family remains strong in Cyprus (Meleagrou and Yesilda 1993). Historically, Greek Cypriots spoke of themselves in reference to their families, not as individuals. They identify themselves first as members of families, next according to places of origin, and lastly as citizens of Cyprus (Meleagrou and Yesilda 1993). Thus, despite urbanization and modernization, the family remains strong in Cypriot society. In the late 1980's, the marriage rate in Cyprus was 9.5 per thousand, the highest in Europe (Meleagrou and Yesilda 1993). Even though the divorce rate, as mentioned earlier, has increased to sixteen percent of marriages, it is still the lowest in Europe. In addition, the number of extramarital births is among the lowest in Europe at .7 percent of the total number of births (Meleagrou and Yesilda 1993).

Most researchers agree that the Cypriot family is patriarchal, with very strong traditional values. However, traditions change in response to various factors, such as changes in the economy, the decline of religion, and changes in the importance given to moral issues (Stavrou 1992). Such changes should, in turn, affect the Cypriot family. However, Georgiou (1991) points out that the Greek Cypriot community influences the Greek Cypriot family whether the larger society changes or remains the same. Individuals and their behaviors within the family are highly influenced by what the community defines as appropriate and inappropriate.

For example, Georgas et al. (1997) studied the significance of the family and the community of Greek Cypriots by measuring the emotional closeness, geographic proximity, and extent of interaction with family members. Greek Cypriots expressed a higher degree of emotional closeness to their relatives, including cousins and uncles/aunts, than the other four culture groups studied (Greece, Netherlands, Great Britain, and the Federal Republic of Germany). Furthermore, they live closer to cousins, aunts and uncles, and siblings. They engage in more frequent meetings with these relatives, and more often contacted their distant relatives by phone. The researchers concluded that these bonds indicate a strong extended family structure in Cyprus. The family plays a significant, multi-functional role as an institution in Cypriot society, providing emotional and material support for members. For example, in Cyprus, family functions are not only social, but also economic, including care of the elderly and financial support for adult children. This collective family structure demonstrates interdependence between family members and the effect it can have on the members’ behaviors. This suggests that for Cypriots, the family is likely to effectively control behaviors.

Furthermore, the strong influences of the family extend to various contexts and a range of behaviors. Georgiou (1995) studied the relationship between family dynamics and school achievement in Cyprus. He described the traditional Cypriot family as three dyads of socially defined roles: in-groups and out-groups, husbands and wives, and parents and children. The in-group includes those persons concerned with a particular individual. Interdependence exists among those in the in-group, in addition to trust and loyalty. This is important, according to Georgiou (1995), because philotimo is deeply ingrained in the culture. Philotimo, the love of honour, controls individuals’ behaviors. Cypriot society highly values philotimo as an individual characteristic that focuses on respect for others, especially the family. Being accused of lacking philotimo is a tremendous insult. This occurs when an individual has insulted the honor of another or when individuals do not defend their own honor. Individuals must act for the family’s collective interest; they protect the well being of the family collective. This too suggests the significance of strong social sanctions in controlling Cypriots' behaviors.

The pair-bond dyad also reveals the significance of the family. Individuals who fail to secure a spouse live their lives in the outskirts of the village socially; they are not given a role in the mainstream society (Markides, Nikita, and Rangou 1978). Triandis et al. (1986) examined the fact that Greeks still attach themselves to society psychologically, and to traditional culture socially. Even though the family has changed in some ways to resemble the Western lifestyle, it still retains characteristics from decades ago. One example is an emphasis on family cohesion. This is evident through behaviors and attitudes (Georgiou 1995) that give more support for the social sanctions I argue are important in controlling behavior.

Finally, as it concerns occupations, Georgiou (1991) studied the effects of the Cypriot family on individual career decision making. Within the family, the main concern typically focuses on what happens after education, not during it. Markides et al. (1978) explain this concern through the Cypriot society’s emphasis on competition for status. Education is a means for achieving higher social status and a higher income. Georgiou (1991) also finds that family is the most direct influence on individual career decision making. Other researchers have similarly described the numerous influences of traditional Greek Cypriot family on individual behaviors (e.g., Georgiou 1995; Attalides 1981).

In sum, from these past studies, we predict the influence of both the family and the strength of social sanctions in the family. Inappropriate behavior would bring shame to individuals and their families because it would undercut philotimo. An individual’s focus on the family and philotimo will mean people are less likely to wish to bring shame to the family. Therefore, I argue that individuals in Cypriot society are less likely to engage in criminal behavior due to social deterrence. This emphasis on social sanctions will be reflected in Cypriot media.

THE MEDIA AND CRIME

Scholars do not agree that the media is a reflection of reality. Evidence exists that the media reinforces values that are already widespread in the society (e.g., Gans 1979; Cockburn and Loach 1986). Yet, several studies focused on the U.S. show that the media can distort reality, not always giving the most accurate information (e.g., Curran et al. 1986; Sherizen 1978).

The media have been described as a social organization that manufactures cultural products rather than simply mirroring society (Howitt 1998; Cohen and Young 1973). For example, Wasserman and Stack (1994) demonstrate that there was no direct relationship between news coverage and lynching. As the news coverage on lynching increased, lynching rates actually decreased. Researchers have also emphasized that crime news distorts crime in order to support the institutions of power (Barlow, Barlow, and Chiricos 1995; Voumvakis and Ericson 1984). The media focuses on and exaggerates criminal behavior (McDevitt 1996). There is an overemphasis on criminals who are caught. Moreover, there are stereotypes with regard to jobs, roles, and activities, including stereotyping based on gender, race, ethnicity, and homosexuality (Cockburn and Loach 1986). Marsh (1991) describes the consistent, disproportionate emphasis on rape and murder in the media as a worldwide phenomenon. Furthermore, the media tend to give an inaccurately positive image of arrest rates and punishment.

Graber (1980) and Schlesinger et al. (1991) conclude that the media are a source of misinformation. Specific crimes, such as rape, robbery, drugs, and murder are typically over-represented, while theft and burglary are underrepresented (Graber 1980; Sheley and Ashkin 1981). Surette (1984) notes that the crimes most emphasized in the media are the crimes that are the least likely to occur. "Reality programs" which focus on actual crimes tend to be more similar to television crime dramas than reality (Cavender and Bond-Maupin 1993). Thus, researchers tell us that the public perception of crime does not reflect reality (Ito 1993). Furthermore, the distortions by the media increase public fear.

Researchers have debated whether violence presented in the media is a reflection of society rather than the reverse. Some researchers argue that the media inaccurately focuses on violence (Murray 1980). Others claim that the media can not afford to sway from society’s interests, and, thus, will tend to hold the audience’s attention through the reflection of society’s beliefs, values, and politics. In other words, the media maintains its power by reflecting the ideologies and values of the culture (Howitt 1998).

In sum, most previous research suggests that the media are not merely a reflection of society. However, it is important to keep in mind that these studies focus on the U.S. The media and the level of societal reflection may vary by culture, and we cannot assume that this will be the case for the Cypriot media. As noted above, Cypriot society demonstrates the strength of social sanctions and philotimo in the culture, and I anticipate that the Cypriot media will emphasize social sanctions (e.g., embarrassment of the offender and social aspects of crime) in reports of crime and strongly reflect Cypriot society.

Cyprus is also an interesting place to study varied ideas about the role of the media because it has a comparatively large number of daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals for its population size. It has ten Greek-language newspapers and one English-language daily newspaper, in addition to five weekly newspapers (Laipson 1993; Cyprus Government 1999). Greek Cypriots can access seven television stations and three radio stations. Five hundred thousand radios and 300,000 televisions indicate that the citizens obtain information from the media. The media plays a significant role in politics; some newspapers outwardly support specific politicians and/or political parties (Laipson 1993).

The Cyprus News Agency, an independent corporation, represents the Union of Journalists, the Publisher’s Association, the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation and the Press and Information Office. This corporation distributes news to the island’s newspapers, news agencies, and radio stations. It focuses on events and activities that affect Cypriot society, and other topics of particular interest, such as home news, economy, domestic politics, foreign policy, culture/arts, sports, and entertainment.

TOURISM

Although social deterrence may be a major influence on local Cypriots’ behaviors, the nation of Cyprus is not isolated from outside visitors. Currently, tourism ranks as its most important industry (Speros Vryonis Center for Study of Hellenism 1999). In 1998, over two million tourists visited Cyprus (Cyprus Government 1999). The majority of tourists are young Scandinavians. The media have described the major tourist town as "a bustling, round-the-clock neon-lit cosmopolitan mini-metropolis and topless sex capital of Cyprus" (Akis et al. 1996; Cyprus Weekly 1992). Even though tourism has helped Cyprus prosper, Cypriot society still has concerns about the negative aspects of tourism, most importantly the influence of tourism on the culture and crime related to tourism (Akis et al. 1996).

Surveyed Cypriots have indicated their opinions about the social impacts of tourism and development in two major tourist towns, Paralimni and Ayia Napia. The majority of Cypriots state (1) that tourists have a negative effect on the Cypriot way of life; (2) that tourism changes the traditional culture; and (3) that tourism decreases the lifestyle quality of Cypriots who live in tourist areas (Akis et al. 1996). However, parents with children who have prospered from tourism view the issue differently. These parents’ support for tourism existed only when their children benefit, suggesting the strength of the family.

The reaction of Cyprus to the tourism of the 1990's demonstrates how the Cyprus society attempts to maintain tradition and avoid major changes to the nation. Agro-tourism (tourism focusing on nature, the environment, and social activities involving local traditions, such as holidays, the harvest, bird watching, hiking and geology) has become a common term in connection with tourism. The emphasis of Cypriots has been to support tourism that preserves traditional values and customs (Kammas 1993) rather than tourism which would encourage society to imitate foreign values and behaviors. Values and behaviors of tourists, specifically from Europe, have developed in the Cypriot society; for example, younger generations seek different values than their families', resulting in weaker family bonds. By promoting agro-tourism, Cypriots attempt to prevent cultural changes stemming from tourism.

With regard to tourism and crime, Cypriot society supports conference tourism, hoping that this type of tourism is more positive. Conference tourism attempts to bring in tourists with qualities different from the ordinary tourists, for example, with higher education levels, higher socioeconomic status, and a better understanding of the culture (Kammas 1993). Conference tourists are more likely to visit archaeological and historical sites, or remain at their conference program. Cypriots reason that these tourists will be less involved in crime.

Cypriots also blame increases in drugs and AIDS on tourism. Maranda (1996) points out tourism is an influence on alcohol consumption as well as drug consumption. An increase in tourism resulted in the increased availability of alcohol with the potential to alter the lives of those in Cyprus. More generally, tourists influence consumption patterns, attitudes towards lifestyles and general beliefs about behaviors (MacIntosh and Goeldner 1990). In addition, MacIntosh and Goeldner (1990) argue that extensive tourism increases levels of prostitution, gambling, public disorder, and other criminal behaviors.

Thus, the Cypriot society, a society of low crime rates and strong family cohesion, would view tourism negatively, even though economically the society prospers. Based on these views, tourists engaging in crime are thought of particularly negatively. Thus, with regard to the portrayal of crime, I anticipate that in addition to an emphasis on social sanctions, the media will negatively portray crimes involving tourists in contrast to those involving Cypriot citizens. Furthermore, tourists will be shamed for their behaviors as "guests" in Cyprus, for insulting Cypriot hospitality and traditions. For criminological insight into the significance of these emphases, I turn now to deterrence theory.

DETERRENCE THEORY

Other than governmental surveys of crime, there has been little research exploring why Cyprus has such low crime rates or the relationship between Cypriot society and crime. The discussion within the academic arena is minimal. According to Tartter (1993), the closeness of the family, the upholding of the family’s honor and reputation, and the social pressures for achievement, explain the low crime rates in Cyprus. As researchers, we can examine numerous theories in an attempt to explain variation in criminal behavior in a specific society. In understanding the relationship between the strength of the family and the low crimes rates in Cyprus, deterrence theory, i.e., that regarding the effect of social sanctions, appears to explain the society’s control over criminal behavior. 3

Deterrence theory explains the control of human behaviors through sanctions (Gibbs 1975). Different types of sanctions exist in societies, including formal (penal) and informal (social) sanctions. Individuals do not engage in certain behaviors due to the perceived sanctions, defined as consequences. The United States focuses on formal sanctions in preventing criminal behavior--prison, probation, and fines. However, American society has not focused as extensively on informal sanctions, which include stigmatization, shaming, embarrassment and disapproval from others, and individual conscience (e.g., Grasmick, Blackwell and Bursik 1993).

In the past, deterrence theory research examined the role of formal sanctions in controlling criminal behaviors and focused on the effects of increasing the severity and certainty of legal sanctions. The legal system has been viewed as a potentially powerful deterrent. However, weak evidence for formal sanctions shifts the focus to informal sanctions (Gibbs 1975; Weisburd et al. 1995), and today deterrence theory has expanded to include informal deterrence. Informal sanctions control a range of deviant behaviors, such as lying and cheating, killing, or tormenting. These sanctions have been studied in various settings: the work place, organizations, families, places of worship, the school system, prisons, and even nuclear arms crises (e.g., Yu and Liska 1993; Simpson and Koper 1992). Research demonstrates that informal sanctions are strong deterrents across these different settings for different forms of deviance. For example, Pate and Hamilton (1992) examine the deterrent effect of formal and social sanctions on domestic violence. The effect of formal sanctions is largely mediated by social sanctions. Arrest appears to be a deterrent; however, the existence of social sanctions associated with the arrest actually deters the offender.

The focus of deterrence theories on social sanctions is consistent with past studies describing the cohesive, family-oriented, honour-based character of Cypriot society and evidence of low crime rates. Thus, I examine Cypriot media sources, looking for evidence of shaming and the presence of social information in crime reports. Specifically, I expect a greater emphasis on social sanctions than on legal sanctions, or the mediation of legal sanctions by social sanctions.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

Because there is little social science research on the culture of Cyprus, particularly the relationship between the society and crime, I decided to explore the following questions. First, what evidence is there for the greater importance of informal, social sanctions over formal, legal sanctions as deterrents to crime on Cyprus? If, as I suspect, informal sanctions are more important, then Cypriot media accounts of crime ought to focus extensively on social forms of deterrence such as shaming. This could be accomplished through the inclusion of extensive information about offenders and their families (e.g., area of origin, age, and occupation). Because status and competition for status are strong and highly valued in Cypriot society, crimes in which offenders' names are intentionally excluded from articles will involve offenders of higher social status, or young victims. Offenders will be portrayed negatively for most crimes, but social factors, such as social status, will influence depictions. In particular, whether or not offenders or victims are portrayed negatively will vary depending upon whether they are Cypriot residents or tourists, given Cypriot concern with tourism. Shaming is a more effective deterrent for members of a community, for example, and thus I expect to find that more personal information would be provided about Cypriot offenders. Foreign offenders, however, are likely to be portrayed more negatively overall, as they are outsiders. Given the importance of social sanctions, any discussion of legal sanctions should be mediated by the latter; such discussion will be of social relations and culture offered in explanation for the punishment meted out, for example. Finally, since personal crimes in general involve hurting an individual directly, more shaming is involved with violent crimes. Thus, the media are more likely to focus on these crimes, and percentages of violent crimes relative to non-violent crimes reported in the media will be higher than those reported to the police.

As a pilot study, I examined the newspaper, Cyprus Mail, for a period of three years, traveling to Cyprus to obtain access to the newspaper for 1997. In 1998, Cyprus Mail was placed on the Internet. Since the crime rate is low, I included all of the crime articles printed in the years covered in the study. I collected Cyprus Mail articles on crime for January-December 1997, August-December 1998, and January-May 1999. The 1998 set is not complete because the newspaper terminated its internet archive section.

I recorded extensive information for each crime article (please see Appendix for variables and coding explanations). Barlow et al.'s (1995) coding scheme, which was used to code crime news in the United States post-World War II, was used to assist in the development of the socioeconomic and other demographic coding categories. In addition, I obtained police statistics for comparison to the types of crimes disclosed through the media. I then created a data set to explore the variables through descriptives, ANOVA analyses, correlations, and regression analyses.

 

RESULTS

Descriptive Data

There were a total of 643 crime articles: 278 in 1997, 219 in 1998, and 155 in 1999 (1997 was the only complete twelve month set of articles). Table 8 shows the percentages of the types of crimes reported in the Cyprus Mail. Approximately fifty percent of the crimes were property crimes and fifty percent were personal crimes. The largest percentage of crimes were assaults (14.9 percent), murders (12.1 percent), drugs (9.4 percent), and thefts (10.1 percent). In this way, the media give the impression that these are the most common crimes. 

Table 8
Types of Crime Portrayed in the Media Articles, in Percent

 

Offense

 

Percent

 

Offense

 

Percent

 

Property crimes

 

50.6

 

Personal crimes

 

49.4

 

Theft

 

10.1

 

Burglary

 

2.9

 

Robbery

 

4.0

 

Prostitution

 

1.9

 

Fraud

 

8.6

 

Assault

 

14.9

 

Murder

 

12.1

 

Rape

 

6.5

 

Arson

 

4.3

 

Firearms

 

3.4

 

Attempted
murder

 

8.3

 

Kidnapping

 

1.3

 

Drugs

 

9.4

 

Gambling

 

1.0

 

Espionage

 

1.4

 

Vandalism

 

1.1

 

Embezzlement

 

1.4

 

Animal abuse

 

.6

 

Pornography

 

.2

 

Domestic Violence

 

.3

 

Bombing

 

4.2

 

Bribery

 

.6

 

Disturbing peace

 

.3

 

Drive-by shooting

 

.2

 

Oil spill

 

.3

 

Blackmail

 

.3

 

The median prison term reported in the Cyprus Mail is 6.0 months and the mean 53.4 months. The median remand (being held in custody after arrest) is 8.03 days and the mean 13.0 days. The average age for the offenders is 32.5: 32.6 for males and 33.4 for females. About seventy percent of the offenders are Greek Cypriots and 30.4 percent are foreigners. Just under eleven percent of the offenders were unemployed at the time of the crime. Over half of the offenders were married at the time of the crime, nineteen percent were divorced, and 26.6 percent were single. Information about the victim-offender relationship shows that 31.4 percent of the offenders were strangers to the victim, 37.3 percent were acquaintances, 6.4 percent were friends, 12.3 percent were relatives, and 12.7 percent were intimates (a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend).

Social Information

I reasoned that the Cypriot media would focus extensively on social sanctions, shaming offenders by including extensive personal information about them and their families. Table 9 gives evidence of extensive social information being given about the offender. I coded data according to whether the article included the offender’s name, did not include it, or whether the name was unknown at the time of the article. About 72 percent of the articles include the offender’s name, 13.4 percent did not, and in 14.7 percent of the reports the crime(s) was/were unsolved. Overall, nearly ninety percent of the articles included area of residence, 59 percent included social origin and over four fifths included age. Ninety-seven percent of the reports included gender, 96.8 percent included ethnicity, 48.0 percent included occupation and 49.5 percent included social status.

 

Table 9

Media Reported Information on the Offender (in percent)

 

Information

 

Yes

 

No

 

Unknown

 

Offender Name

 

71.9

 

13.4

 

14.7

 

Parent’s Names

 

1.9

 

97.9

 

0.0

 

Area of Residence

 

89.8

 

10.2

 

0.0

 

Social Origin

 

59.0

 

41.0

 

0.0

 

Age

 

81.9

 

18.1

 

0.0

 

Gender

 

97.0

 

3.0

 

0.0

 

Ethnicity

 

96.8

 

3.2

 

0.0

 

Type of occupation

 

48.0

 

52.0

 

0.0

 

Social status

 

49.5

 

50.5

 

0.0

 

Education level

 

2.7

 

97.1

 

0.0

 

Family relations

 

22.1

 

77.9

 

0.0

 

Friend relations

 

33.3

 

66.7

 

0.0

 

Marital status

 

12.9

 

87.1

 

0.0

 

Portrayed negatively

 

80.0

 

20.0

 

0.0

 

These percentages suggest a strong Cypriot media focus on shaming. It is not surprising to see the inclusion of gender, occupation, and age, since this has been typical in past studies (Barlow et al. 1995). However, the inclusion of residence, social origin, and social status has not been found in past studies, nor has the intentional exclusion of the offender’s name. Furthermore, this social information is not directly related to the actual crime.

In a similar vein, many of the crime articles discussed family relations and relations with friends. One third of the articles discussed friends and 22.1 percent discussed family. Interestingly, in articles that discussed family and/or friends, friends were depicted negatively in 98.4 percent of the articles and family relations were depicted negatively in 94.3 percent of the articles. Like the inclusion of personal information, the high percentages of family and friend relations being described in negative terms also demonstrates the focus of the Cypriot media on social information and shaming. Offenders are not only shamed, but also those associated with them, their families, and friends. This is consistent with research that demonstrates the strength and focus of shaming in Cypriot society. The media’s portrayal of shaming is a reflection of Cypriot society.

This study bears similarities and differences to the Barlow et al. (1995) study of crime news from which I drew the coding scheme. References to gender, age, and occupation are common in crime articles, as in the Cypriot media reports. However, references to social status, and social origin were rare in their data. In contrast, the Cypriot media articles typically include information on the offender’s ethnicity, social status, and social origin. Furthermore, in Barlow et al. (1995) there is no mention of reference to area of residence and whether the offender’s name was included. In the Cypriot media, area of residence is typically included. In Barlow et al. (1995), when the family was mentioned, there was a positive family association. This is very different from Cyprus, in which crime articles typically depicted family and friend relations negatively. Differences in the Cypriot media, I contend, suggest a focus on social information and the shaming of offenders, rather than on the formal sanctions more commonly employed in the United States.

I also expect that offenders will be portrayed negatively for most crimes, and the data support this. Eighty percent of the offenders are portrayed negatively in the media, while thirteen percent are portrayed positively and seven percent neither positively nor negatively. There is much more than just the direct reporting of crime in the media. There is constant indication of perceptions about the offenders and their character. This is commonly done through the use of terms such as "immoral," "embarrassing," and "going against the hospitality of Cyprus." As I have shown, family and friends are portrayed negatively when they are mentioned in the crime articles. A focus on shaming is once again apparent, further indicating that the Cypriot media are a reflection of Cypriot society.

Social factors, such as social status 4, are also important in Cypriot media reports of crime. Table 10 compares articles that do and do not include offender name. By looking at cases in which the offender’s name was not included, we can examine why the media would not identify a specific offender to Cypriots. The social status of the offender was upper status in over sixty-four percent of these cases; the victim was under eighteen in over sixty percent of the cases; the offender was Cypriot in nearly seventy-six percent of the cases; the victim was Cypriot in over seventy-six percent of the cases. The victim’s name was also excluded in 75.9 percent of the cases, based on the age of the victim and the type of crime. However, even though the offender’s name was excluded in these articles, 24.1 percent of them included the victim’s name. The social status of these victims is 50.0 percent upper class, 45.8 percent lower class, and 4.2 percent middle class. If we look at the differences by type of crime, we see that nearly fifteen percent of the cases were fraud, 26.8 percent were assaults, 28 percent were rape, while only 7.3 percent involved drugs.

 

Table 10

Articles With or Without Offender Name , in Percent

 

Reported Information

 

No Offender Name

 

Offender Name

 

Type of crime

 

 

 

Personal

 

34.1

 

53.1

 

Property

 

65.9

 

46.9

 

Offender social status

 

 

 

Lower

 

25.6

 

38.5

 

Middle

 

10.3

 

10.2

 

Upper

 

64.1

 

51.3

 

Offender ethnicity

 

 

 

Cypriot

 

75.8

 

69.8

 

Foreigner

 

24.2

 

30.2

 

Victim Name

 

 

 

No

 

75.9

 

32.6

 

Yes

 

24.1

 

67.4

 

Victim Under 18

 

60.5

 

18.0

 

Victim status

 

 

 

Lower

 

45.8

 

34.7

 

Middle

 

4.2

 

11.6

 

Upper

 

50.0

 

53.7 ???

 

Victim ethnicity

 

 

 

Cypriot

 

76.6

 

70.6

 

Foreigner

 

23.4

 

29.4

 

By comparing articles that do and do not include offender name, we can test for differences regarding information given about the offender, crime, and victim. There is a significant difference in offender ethnicity (F=7.62, p<.0001), mention of victim name (F=29.59, p<.0001), victim age (F=11.43, p<.0001), and whether it was a property or personal crime (F=5.170, p<.01). Articles not disclosing offender name include a larger percentage of Cypriot offenders, a smaller percentage of victim’s names, a larger percentage of victim’s under the age of eighteen, and a higher percentage of personal crimes. Thus, it appears that articles not including the offender’s name are also protecting the victim.

In sum, even though shaming is important in Cypriot society, for specific crimes, certain Cypriot offenders seem to be largely unidentified in the media. For example, as previously mentioned, most unidentified offenders are upper social status. Furthermore, the characteristics of the victim, specifically the victim’s age, are important in whether the offender is identified. When the victim is younger, there seems to be an attempt to prevent shaming the victim. This demonstrates the significance of the victim in the portrayal of crimes, similar to past research and theory (e.g., Myers 1989, 1991). More importantly, it demonstrates the strength of shaming in Cypriot society for both offenders and victims.

Social factors also influence how negatively offenders and victims are portrayed. Table 11 displays the models I tested on how negatively offenders are portrayed. Social status is a significant factor in all models. As status increases, offenders are portrayed more positively. As previously discussed, in past studies on the Cypriot society, status and competition for status are strong and highly valued in culture. Thus, the evidence that higher status offenders are portrayed more positively is consistent with other research on Cyprus. The media’s focus on higher status and the portrayal of offenders in positive terms further demonstrate a reflection of Cypriot society in the media.

  • Table 11

    Models Testing for Significant Predictors of Portrayal of the Offender

  •  

    Independent variables

     

     

    I

     

    Model

    II

     

     

    III

     

     

    B

     

    b

     

    b

     

    Offender ethnicity

     

    -.426*

     

    -.325

     

    -.213***

     

    Offender social status

     

    .212**

     

    .187**

     

    .000

     

    Victim ethnicity

     

    .000

     

    .000

     

    ---

     

    Victim social status

     

    -1.07

     

    .000

     

    ---

     

    Portrayal of victim

     

    ----

     

    -.185

     

    -.287***

     

    Constant

     

    .203

     

    .430

     

    .590

     

    F

     

    2.978

     

    3.11

     

    10.501

     

    R2

     

    .181

     

    .230

     

    .195

     

    d.f.

     

    58

     

    57

     

    133

     

    *p<.05

    **p<.01

    ***p<.001

    ****p<.0001

     

     

     

     

    For the model in which ethnicity is significant, the Cypriot offender is portrayed more positively than the foreigner. Past research focuses on Cypriots' concerns about tourism, loss of the culture, and the development of agrotourism. Thus, the finding that foreigners are portrayed negatively is also a reflection of Cypriot society.

    In the third model, the portrayal of the victim is significant. As the portrayal of the victim becomes more positive, the portrayal of the offender becomes more negative. Similarly to the finding that victims are sometimes protected by not having their names disclosed, this demonstrates the importance of the victim.

    Correlations also show a statistically significant relationship between portrayals of offenders and offenders' ethnicity (-.089, p<.05), victim’s social status (-.220, p<.05), and portrayal of the victim (-.116, p<.05). As victim status increases, offender portrayal decreases (data not shown). The correlation with the victim’s social status further demonstrates the importance of status in Cypriot society, a reflection of society. Victims of higher social status appear more valued than victims of lower social status.

    In keeping with this idea, social factors also influence how negatively victims are portrayed. Table 12 displays two models. Here the ethnicity of the victim appears to influence their portrayal. Foreign victims are portrayed more positively than Cypriot victims. As previously described, hospitality is focused upon in Cyprus. Victimized tourists depict an inhospitable society. Cypriots believe that hospitality, not victimization, should be given to all tourists. This strong emphasis on hospitality should result in sympathy for the tourist victim and embarrassment for Cypriot society. This is similar to the support for agrotourism.

     

    Table 12

    Models Testing for Significant Predictors of Portrayal of the Victim

     

    Independent

    variables

     

    I

     

    b

     

    II

     

    b

     

    Victim ethnicity

     

    .420**

     

    .189*

     

    Victim social status

     

    .00

     

    ----

     

    Offender ethnicity

     

    ---

     

    .2138*

     

    Constant

     

    .985

     

    -1.084

     

    F

     

    4.30

     

    5.620

     

    R2

     

    .06

     

    .045

     

    d.f.

     

    141

     

    238

     

    *p<.05

    **p<.01

    ***p<.001

    ****p<.0001

     

     

    When the offender is foreign, the victim is portrayed positively. In turn, this depicts the foreign offender as more negative. Society does have a concern with tourists engaging in criminal behaviors. Thus, it is not surprising that the media portrays the victim more positively in these cases, further indicating the reflection of society in the media.

    Correlations (not shown) indicate a relationship between portrayal of the victim and ethnicity of the offender (.155, p<.05), portrayal of the offender (-.116, p<.05), and victim’s ethnicity (.175, p<.01). In looking at this further, most of the victims are Cypriots victimized by other Cypriots. Tourist victims are victimized by both foreigners and Cypriots (approximately fifty percent in each category), while Cypriot victims are more likely to be victimized by other Cypriots.

    Cypriots vs. Foreigners

    There are other differences related to ethnicity. Since Cypriot society is interested in shaming, and since foreigners are, by definition, outsiders, I expect to find that more extensive information will be provided about Cypriot offenders than about foreigners. Table 13 displays the percentages of Cypriot offenders and the percentage of foreigners for whom the information is included in the media articles. More family information is included for the Cypriot offenders, yet more information on offenders’ friends is included for the foreigners. Including the family in the media articles, which typically portray the family negatively, suggests an emphasis on shaming the Cypriot offenders. Furthermore, social status is more likely to be given in articles on Cypriot offenders. This demonstrates the significance that Cypriot society places on the family and the social status of its citizens, and is therefore a reflection of society through the media.

    Table 13

    Articles Including Social Information on Cypriot and Foreign Offenders

     

    Social Information

     

    Cypriot

     

    Foreigner

     

    Area of residence

     

    89.8

     

    99.4

     

    Social Origin

     

    43.8

     

    98.1

     

    Age

     

    82.8

     

    86.9

     

    Gender

     

    98.0

     

    97.5

     

    Employment

     

    51.8

     

    41.6

     

    Education

     

    1.7

     

    5.6

     

    Social Status

     

    55.0

     

    39.2

     

    Family

     

    25.2

     

    15.0

     

    Friends

     

    30.1

     

    41.8

     

    The correlations show an association between the offender’s ethnicity and an article that includes information about the family (-.112, p<.05), friends (.124, p<.01), and social status (-.145, p<.01). Similarly, there are significant differences between Cypriot offenders and foreign offenders with regard to information on the family (F=6.49, <.05), information on friends (F=7.94, p<.01), information on social status (10.91, p<.001), and the portrayal of the family (5.59, p<.05) (data not shown). The family is portrayed more negatively when the offender is Cypriot, demonstrating shaming of not only individuals but also their families. In addition, social status is more likely to be included for Cypriot offenders. This is not surprising, since research shows the importance of status in Cypriot society, and it appears once again to be a reflection of society through the media.

    I also expect that foreign offenders will be portrayed more negatively than Cypriot offenders. The data indicate that foreigners are portrayed more negatively than the Cypriot; there is a significant mean difference in portrayal of offender by Cypriot or a foreigner status (F=4.113, p<.05; data not shown). This suggests that there is a concern about tourists and foreigners and their influence on Cyprus. This is consistent with research on Cypriot tourism and support for agrotourism, which mirrors society. However, as stated earlier, the families of Cypriots tend to be depicted more negatively, consistent with the importance of shaming.

    Legal Sanctions

    Another research question I address is whether legal sanctions are mediated by social sanctions in Cypriot media representations. I expect that when the media discuss legal punishment it will be a discussion of social relations and culture, e.g., social explanations for the punishment. For the crime articles that discussed sentencing, 79.2 percent of the articles gave an explanation for the punishment. These explanations discuss social information that was used, not specific laws or sentencing statutes. For example, with regard to tourists, statements focused on how the tourist took advantage of the Cypriot hospitality. Another example is a statement that the offender was immoral and hurt society. If the judge gave a more lenient punishment, he/she discussed the reasoning behind the decrease in punishment, focusing on social relations between the victim and offender, and mitigating circumstances. This further demonstrates the importance of shaming in Cypriot society and the strength of philotimo. Interestingly enough, crime articles on sentencing give an explanation of the offender’s behavior in thirty-four percent of the cases. Typically, these offenders are given less severe sentences due to mitigating circumstances.

    Police Statistics vs. Media

    The final research question I explore is whether the media includes a higher percentage of the violent crimes reported to the police in contrast to the less serious crimes. I compared crimes reported to the police in 1997 with the media reports of crime in 1997. This year was chosen because it is the only complete year of media articles. Table 14 compares the police and media reports. Sex offenses and murders are overrepresented in the media; however, the percentages of property crimes vs. personal crimes reported to the police are similar to the respective percentages in the media. The percentages for gender and ethnicity are similar between the media and the police reports. The average age of offenders is older in the media than in the police reports as well as for both males and females. The average length of prison term is greater in the media than in the police data (understandable as a result of the over-representation of murder and sex offenses). Since the society focuses on shaming, it is not surprising that personal crimes are overrepresented. Perhaps Cypriots view these crimes as the most immoral and deserving of shaming.

     

    Table 14

    Comparison of Government Statistics and Media Articles, 1997

     

     

    Government Statistics

     

    Media Articles

     

    Type of Crime

     

     

     

    Property

     

    59.7%

     

    54.2%

     

    Personal

     

    40.3%

     

    45.8%

     

    Murder

     

    .2%

     

    6.6%

     

    Sex offenses

     

    .7%

     

    7.4%

     

    Drugs

     

    6%

     

    9.6%

     

    Age (mean)

     

     

     

    Females

     

    29.5

     

    34.1

     

    Males

     

    27.4

     

    32.8

     

    Percent juveniles

     

    5.0%

     

    3.4%

     

    Gender

     

     

     

    Males

     

    92.3%

     

    92.5%

     

    Females

     

    7.7%

     

    7.5%

     

    Ethnicity

     

     

     

    Cypriots

     

    75%

     

    74.4%

     

    Foreigners

     

    25%

     

    25.6%

     

    Percent employed

     

    28.9%

     

    8.6%

     

    Punishment

     

     

     

    Mean prison term

     

    10.8 months

     

    46.4 months

     

    Median prison term

     

    4.4 month

     

    4.0 months

    CONCLUSIONS

    This study raises important issues for studying low crime societies and using the media as a resource in studying cultures. From this exploratory study, we find interesting results about the Cypriot culture and the media’s portrayal of crime. Unlike findings reported in several studies on the United States’ media, I find that the Cypriot media appear to strongly reflect Cypriot society. Cypriot society is cohesive, family-based, and honour-bound. This gives social sanctions, particularly shaming, an important deterrent role. Thus the media include detailed information about the offender, such as name, age, area of residence, and social origin. Social status comes into play as well; articles that do not include the offender’s name--when it is known-- demonstrate the significance of social status. Individuals of higher status are not as "easily exposed" as those of a lower status. Furthermore, there were cases in which the victim was identified but the high status offender was not (keeping in mind that the name of offender was known). In addition, how negatively the offender is portrayed is significantly influenced by social status. The role of social status and shaming in the articles shows how Cypriot values are reflected in media accounts of crime.

    Most of the articles do not mention punishment, suggesting that legal punishment is not necessarily a focus of the Cypriots in controlling crime. When legal punishment was discussed in the crime articles, social explanations were given for the punishment. For example, the judge in one case stated that the tourist took advantage of Cypriot hospitality. When Cypriot citizens were offenders, the judges describe their behavior as "immoral" and "hurting society." The connection of legal punishment with shaming of the behavior further demonstrates the strength of social sanctions in the Cypriot society. Furthermore, ninety-six percent of the articles focused on offenders and their behaviors while only four percent focus on the criminal justice system. This also indicates that Cypriots are less interested in legal issues and legal punishments than in social sanctions.

    Based on the media articles, the largest percentage of crimes in Cyprus comprise those committed against strangers and acquaintances. The crime rates were lower for crimes against relatives, intimates, and friends. This result can be explained in several ways. Perhaps victims do not report crimes as often when the offender is a family member, due to shaming and family cohesion in Cypriot society. Or, perhaps, these crimes are actually less frequent because of strong family cohesion and philotimo in Cyprus.

    When the articles did include information on offenders' family and friends, the media portrayed relations between offenders and their families and/or friends in negative terms. For example, the offender was said to have hurt the family and/or friend, severing relations through the crime. Other examples included stories about families and friends engaging in similar behaviors, and thus were portrayed as negative influences on offenders. The media do not spend much time giving positive information about family and friends. If they include information on family and friends, it is typically shaming individuals and their social relationships.

    The comparison of the 1997 media articles with the 1997 police statistics shows that the media appear to closely reflect police reporting. Moreover, the percentages were quite similar for gender, ethnicity, and the median number months sentenced to prison. However, murder, sex offenses, and drugs were overrepresented in the media. This is not surprising. As described, the Cypriot government participates in organizations that attempt to stop the importation of drugs into Cyprus, even though Cyprus does not have a large drug problem.

    Even though the median for prison months was similar to the government data, the mean for prison months was quite different. According to the government data, the mean is 10.8, while according to the media articles the mean is 46.4 months. This indicates that the media’s overrepresentation of more violent crimes influences the harshness of punishment being portrayed in the media (keeping in mind that social information typically is attached to these punishments). Similar to the comparison data, the median prison term for all crime articles (in this study) was 6.0 months while the mean was 53.4 months. This further demonstrates that the more violent, serious crimes are overrepresented in the media. This is also not surprising, since these crimes will involve more shaming.

    Shaming information in media accounts for Cypriot offenders and foreign offenders is similar, but foreigners are portrayed more negatively than Cypriot citizens. They are probably seen as threatening to the traditions and cohesion of the society. However, when the foreigner is the victim, the results are not the same. Foreign victims are portrayed more positively than Cypriot victims in general. The Cypriot culture is one of hospitality and philotimo. When an individual visits Cyprus for hospitality, Cypriots are embarrassed and ashamed when the visitor is hurt in any manner. There would be more sympathy for a victimized tourist. Furthermore, when the offender is a foreigner, the victim is portrayed more positively. This is not surprising either. Crimes with foreign offenders are so negatively viewed that the victim is not blamed for the crime in any manner; perhaps Cypriots sympathize with the victim.

    This study does have some limitations. One newspaper was analyzed for specific time periods. Other newspapers should be included, in addition to longer periods of time. The study is exploratory in that not much research has been implemented on crime in Cyprus, nor have researchers attempted to learn about the culture and crime through media sources. Extensive studies need to be designed to obtain information from law abiding Cypriots and tourists in addition to Cypriot and foreign offenders. Nonetheless, perhaps this study can serve as a stepping-stone to further the study of Cypriot culture and its relation to criminal behavior.

    Future studies could also examine the relationship between media and society in other cultures. Most studies focus on the United States. We cannot assume that the portrayal of crime by the media is similar in other cultures. Comparative studies would also strengthen research in this field. Although I have compared the results of this study to Barlow et al. (1995), there is a need for research in which the same coding scheme is used to code media articles in different cultures. Comparative studies could then explore similarities and differences across cultures and prompt researchers to account for these similarities and differences.

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    Endnotes

     1. This study only focuses on the Greek Cypriot part of the island, not the territory occupied by Turkey.

     2. We realize the issues surrounding comparisons between nations. The information included here is only to inform the reader more about Cyprus.

     3. Other criminological theories can also explain the society’s control on criminal behavior, for example, Hirschi’s bonding theory (Hirschi 1969). Since the society, as a whole, seems to control individuals’ behaviors, including the family, friends, and potentially the media, this paper focuses on social sanctions as deterrents. Furthermore, placing attention on the effectiveness of informal(social) sanctions makes a statement about the reality of formal(legal) sanctions in controlling behaviors.

     4. Social status is based on information regarding occupation, wealth, and/or governmental position. Individuals of wealth, governmental position, or an occupation requiring a graduate degree have a higher social status.

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    Olga Tsoudis

    Olga Tsoudis is an assistant professor of criminal justice at Wayne State University. Her research interests are in criminology, social psychology, affect control theory and its application to legal decision-making, jury selection, crime rates in other nations, and gender issues.

    Contact Information: Criminal Justice, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202; e-mail: o_tsoudis@wayne.edu.


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