Greek Helsinki Monitor
Home of Macedonian Culture
Rainbow - Organization of the Macedonian Minority in Greece
Minority Rights Group - Greece
19 October 2001
TOPIC: MEDIA FREEDOMS AND MINORITIES
IN GREECE AND IN THE BALKANS
Our organizations support the recommendations below on greater freedom of movement in the Balkans, and welcome their endorsement by the Southeast Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) Print Media Committee and its commitment to help implement them.
However, they believe that the conference during which these recommendations were elaborated is unfortunately a negative example. Dealing with 'Borders and Minorities in Balkans", the speakers' list included leaders of the minority parties -and government coalition partners- in Albania (Greek party), Bulgaria (Turkish), Kosovo/FRY (Serb) and Macedonia (Albanian), but no minority representative from Greece -- seat of the conference -- not even either one of the two government party deputies from the Turkish minority. We also noticed the absence of any representative from the region's largest and most persecuted minority, the Roma. Moreover, NGOs working on minority rights from Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey were represented, but their Greek counterparts were not; instead, authors of notorious anti-minority publications -one belonging also to a nationalist organization in Greece- were among the speakers. In fact, our organizations were informed about the conference after it was held, from media coverage.
This case is not isolated, but typical of all meetings on minorities organized in Greece by state institutions, mainstream media and NGOs close to the state, including -- with one exception- all meetings (co-)organized by the Council of Europe. Minorities themselves and minority rights NGOs are hardly ever invited to attend -- let alone speak at- such meetings. While there are hardly any other contacts, let alone discussions, between minorities and the authorities. On the contrary, as the official Greek policy is that Greece has no national minorities, those who advocate the opposite are to be isolated and, occasionally, attacked if not slandered. At the same time, all Greek media mention these minorities rarely, almost always only to attack them (see 'Minorities and Media in Greece" at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/countries/greece/mrg-g_03_08_01.doc). Therefore, international participation to such meetings only helps perpetuate and legitimize this attitude. We hope that, in the future, the signatories of the recommendations below (which, interestingly, makes no references to minorities, although drafted in a meeting about them), in light of the above information, will contribute to help change Greece's intolerance towards minorities.
SEEMO PRINT MEDIA COMMITTEE PRESS RELEASE
Vienna, 17 October 2001
Journalists from the Balkan region request greater freedom of movement
At the conference on "Borders and Minorities in Balkans", held on 6 October 2001 in Thessaloniki, under the auspices of the Greek newspaper "Makedonia", several important recommendations have been adopted, which were presented to the governments of the Balkan region.
Participants attending the conference agreed to appeal to the governments in the region to take the necessary measures to facilitate the free flow of information, ideas and people across national borders within the Balkan region.
Specifically, it was requested:
- to make borders as much as possible open for free exchange of ideas and information;
- to allow the circulation of all regional printed media within the Balkan region;
- to allow journalists and scholars to exercise their profession without hindrance by ensuring that if there is a need to obtain visas, these are provided rapidly and without bureaucratic interference.
Furthermore, participants in the conference recommended that the governments and the local NGOs promote a regular and organized exchange of young people, especially students, thus offering the possibility to learn from and about each other.
Finally, professional journalist organizations were requested to foster discussions among journalists from the Balkan region about issues of interest for the region.
Leading journalists and editors from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, FR Yugoslavia (including Kosovo), Greece, Macedonia and Turkey participated in Thessaloniki conference.
The SEEMO Print Media Committee supports the above mentioned recommendations and will use all necessary instruments to facilitate the free flow of information, ideas and people across national borders within South East Europe
SEEMO Coordinator for Print Media
SEEMO is a regional network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, internet, new media and news agencies in the South Eastern European Region.
SEEMO, Spiegelgasse 2 / 29, 1010 Vienna (AUSTRIA)
Tel: (+ 43 1) 513 39 40
Fax: (+43 1) 512 90 15