Police make five arrests after the violence that followed a rally of thousands of demonstrators in the capital, Nicosia.
The Cypriot government condemned protesters opposed to its coronavirus restrictions and vaccination campaign who attacked a TV station and clashed with police.
A protest against measures to contain the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccinations intensified on Sunday after an angry mob attacked the premises of Cypriot television station Sigma.
The state will not be threatened by people who, “citing irrational conspiracy theories, try to take the country back to the Middle Ages,” President Nicos Anastasiades said on Monday.
“The health and safety of our citizens and our democracy will not be left in the hands of irresponsible citizens,” Anastasiades said in a tweet.
Cars belonging to station staff were set on fire outside the
media building and protesters threw stones and arsonists
devices, Cypriot media reported.
Parliament Speaker Annita Demetriou also condemned the attack in the capital Nicosia and stressed the need to “protect democracy and freedom of expression at all costs”, the Cypriot news agency reported.
Five people were arrested and police were looking for 10 other suspects caught on CCTV cameras after the violence that followed a rally of some 5,000 protesters outside the presidential palace.
Some protesters carried signs attacking public health measures and calling the government’s COVID SafePass a “slave pass”.
Cyprus introduced the pass last week. It only allows those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID to enter supermarkets, malls, restaurants and other businesses.
Another protest banner read: “My body, my choice – This is tyranny against freedom”.
Hours later, viewers on the Mediterranean island were shocked when a Sigma TV broadcast was interrupted by protesters storming the building.
The anchor, Nestoras Vassiliou, reported live that the building was under attack as screams could be heard.
Protesters, many of whom were hooded, threw bricks, flares and homemade gasoline bombs, torched several cars outside and ransacked the hall.
When police clashed with the protesters, 12 officers were injured, including seven who were treated in hospital, the Cyprus Mail reported.
Later that night, police clashed with protesters outside the presidential palace and used tear gas against them, the newspaper said.
Cyprus is experiencing a fourth wave of coronavirus infections driven by the transmissible variant Delta. It has so far recorded more than 90,000 cases of coronavirus and 384 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The government last week expanded its COVID-19 vaccination rollout to include adolescents aged 16 and 17, following the new wave, and it has stepped up efforts to persuade young people to take the vaccines.
Sigma TV has spoken out against anti-vaccination activists and the channel has been targeted in previous protests against anti-coronavirus measures.
Anastasiades said, during a visit to the station on Monday, that the government was standing “alongside all the media so that it can freely express its views.”