Greek media protest government censorship
Media outlets in Greece plan a 24-hour general strike on Wednesday (31 October) in response to deteriorating press freedoms and cuts in social security and labour rights.
The planned protest follows a two-hour blackout on Tuesday morning at the state broadcaster ERT. ERT management had suspended two of its top presenters on Monday after they criticized interior minister Nikos Dendias.
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The presenters had admonished state enforcement authorities for having beaten detained left-wing activists. The activists were apprehended during a rally against racism.
The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions (Poesy) had warned on Monday it would “escalate the protests for our right to freedom of information” should state broadcaster not immediately reinstate the suspended broadcasters.
Poesy has followed through on its warning.
Hours after the black-out, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras filed an amendment that could also undermine a health insurance and pension scheme for media, says Poesy on its website.
It is the second general media strike in Greece this month but the latest rally comes on the heels of the arrest of Greek investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis.
State authorities on Sunday arrested Vaxevanis for disclosing the names of some 2,000 prominent Greeks who had allegedly hidden away their wealth in HSBC accounts to avoid paying taxes.
Prosecutors accuse Vaxevanis of breaching privacy laws and are set to go on trial Thursday. His lawyers say he could face a €30,000 fine and a minimum one year in prison if found guilty, reports the New York Times.
"We did not even allege that these individuals were guilty, only called for an investigation," said Vaxevanis in the Guardian.
The assault on press freedoms in Greece has raised serious concerns among pro-free speech organizations.
“The quick and aggressive reaction to Vaxevanis for exposing potential tax evasion is an abominable assault on the public's right to hold government to account,” said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement on Tuesday.
The Paris-based Reporters without Borders ranks Greece’s press freedom media index as second to worst in the EU after Bulgaria.