IPI 2003 World Press Freedom Review: Greece
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/Europe/greece.htm
April 19, 2004
this page in Macedonian
Journalists working conditions are still a problem in Greece.
Many journalists have short fixed-term contracts, with a salary
that of other colleagues. At the beginning of 2003, for example,
there were more than 500 journalists working with short fixed-term
in the public broadcaster ERT.
No progress at all has been made on the issue diversity of reporting
in the mainstream media. The minority position is still a taboo in much
of the media, although some media have made steps towards a better treatment
of the Roma people. There have been reports on their problems and way
of life, traditions, music, among others, but stereotypes remain.
The most characteristic example of this type of behaviour is the double
cancellation of the congress of "Vinozhito-Rainbow". This
is an officially recognized political party representing the Macedonian
minority in Greece. The congresses were supposed to be held in Edessa.
But the threats, demonstrations and violence on the part of a few ultra-nationalists
and neo-fascist extremists caused them to be cancelled.
Because of the threats the offer to use the Congress Hall was withdrawn.
The ultra-nationalist position was supported by two newspapers, both
closely linked to the ultra-right -- Stohos-Target and Ellinikos
Kosmos-Greek World. Both used headlines like, "Throw the Slavs out of Greece" and "Crush
the Skopjan Gypsies."
On the other hand, none of the mainstream media, with the exception
of some dailies such as Eleftherotypia and Express, have carried even
a short report on the incidents. This, despite the fact that the cancellation
of the congress caused an international reaction, varying from the European
Parliament to organizations like the Council of Europe, Minority Rights
Group International, and the Greek Helsinki Monitor, among others.
The issue of homosexuality still poses major problems for the media.
The TV station Mega Channel was fined 100,000 Euros by the National
Council of Radio and Television ("NCRT") for transmitting,
on 6 October, pictures of two men kissing as part of the late-night
TV programme "Klisse ta matia" ("Close your eyes").
The Council considered the kissing scene to be "vulgar and unacceptable" and
claimed "it could damage young people by making them too familiar
Alternatively, the state itself does not seem very willing to solve
the problem of the proper operation of TV and radio stations. Recently,
15 companies applied to the NCRT for a permanent nationwide TV license.
The final results are not expected until 2004. Up to now, existing TV
stations were operating with provisional licenses or no license at all.
The same applies with regard to regional licenses, both for TV and for
radio stations. The only difference is that the screening procedure
has not yet started so it is impossible to estimate when it will be
The most serious press freedom violation was the one concerning the
journalist -- author Gazment (Gazi) Kaplani. Mostly known to the Albanian
community in Athens, Kaplani was semi-employed by the biggest daily
newspaper in Greece Ta Nea and has also worked for the state radio station
NET 105.8, as well as for the Albanian daily Koha Jone.
Just before Christmas 2002, he wrote an "open letter" on
behalf of all Albanian immigrants, and addressed it to Prime Minister
Simitis and the Greek people. In it, he simply tried to describe Christmas
from the immigrant's point of view, using sarcasm, which was directed
against himself, as well as humour.
His problems started at the beginning of 2003, when the Greek ministry
of Public Order told Kaplani that the application for renewal of his
working permit for Greece was rejected and that he would be deported
from the country. Asked for a reason, the ministry claimed that he had
not paid any insurance for his motorbike since 1997. Later the ministry
spokesman admitted that Kaplani was considered unwanted in Greece due
to "reasons of security and public order."
The Athens Journalists' Union ("ESIEA") strongly protested.
The ESIEA board stressed that Kaplani was a journalist and writer ''who
has been working in Greece since 1991, is insured, submits tax returns
and since 2001 he had a Greek state scholarship for his Ph.D. studies
at Panteion University. The social and personal life and action of Gazi
Kaplani is legal and transparent." ESIEA also called on the public
order ministry to make public ''the confidential report on the journalist,
from which it stems that he is dangerous for public order and security
and which places him in constant danger of deportation."
SEEMO reacted on 16 May with a protest letter to the Minister of Public
Order and Interior Minister. SEEMO received an answer instead from the
Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation,
with the information that "as long as this case is linked to issues
regarding public order and national security" it does not fall
under the competence of this Ministry. "In this case, the competent
authority is the Ministry of Public Order," the letter sent to
SEEMO on 25 July stated. The Ministry of Public Order did not respond
to SEEMOs letter in 2003.
On 23 April, Babis Bikas, editor of Makedonia daily in Thessaloniki,
was fired after returning to Greece from Iraq. Two days previously Bikas
had announced during a meeting of the Ethics Committee of the Union
of Journalists of Macedonia and Thrace ("ESIEMTH") that his
report from Baghdad had been censored. Changes were made in Babis? report
published on 10 April. The staff of the newspaper, backed by ESIEMTH,
held a 24-hour strike in support of press freedom on 13 May. A letter
of protest was handed to the management of the newspaper. Five different
Journalist Associations and Unions in Greece supported Bikas.
In its decision 12705 of 15 May the Court rejected the appeal of the
publishing company to pronounce the strike on 13 May illegal. The decision
stated that the dismissal of Babis Bikas was illegal that abuse of journalists?
Texts are an excessive practice beyond the competence of managing editors
and that the freedom of the press is a superior good beyond any private
interest. Bikas was given his job back.
In September, the journalists unions were active in overturning the
decision to layoff their former member and active union leader Dimitris
Aspropoulis, who was dismissed from the Antenna broadcasting station
after working there for fourteen years. The layoff took place after
the management had expressed disapproval of his union activity and his
presence. According to the management, Aspropoulis was being laid off
because the stations news programme had to be replaced by a music programme.
This was strange, because the broadcasting permit for the station had
been granted on the basis of its news programme.
On 29 September, a group of unknown assailants threw a homemade incendiary
device at the front door of Anna Panayotareas house in Athens, causing
damage but no injuries. Panayotarea, a presenter with the TV station
Alpha, told the police that she had been threatened several times in
the past by anonymous phone calls. She linked these calls and also the
attack on her home to her investigations into the activities of the "17
November" terrorist group. For the same reasons, anarchists verbally
and physically attacked Nikos Kakaounakis, an editor at the radio station
Flash and owner of the weekly newspaper Karfi.
From the point of view of observers, in the case of the trial of the "17
November" group members, the press in general followed the government's
line uncritically. They were being used to encourage the public to denounce
terrorists to the police. On the other hand, there have been accusations
concerning the way the press covered the terrorist group member's trial
that ended on 8 December 2003. The fact remains that several journalists
were verbally and sometimes physically attacked for the way they covered
the story, both in 2002 and 2003. ET3 was in the spotlight on 8 December.
During a working table held by the Ministry of Press and Mass Media,
ET3's editor Thanassis Houpis claimed that the chairman of the European
Bureau for Less Used Languages ("EBLUL" -- a semi-official
institution of the European Union) in Greece is a dangerous person who
has publicly stated that Greek Macedonia should become independent only
to be united at a later stage with the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia
("FYROM"). Such a statement was never made and Houpis' point
caused an official protest to ET3 from both Parissis and EBLUL President
On 17 December, the International Publishers` Association ("IPA")
expressed its concern about charges of blaspheming the Greek Orthodox
Church and the Christian religion made against Gerhard Haderer, the
author of the artistic comic book "The Life of Jesus," and
also against the Oxy publishing House. IPA condemned the confiscation
of "The Life of Jesus." The book was published in 7 other
countries, including Austria, where the author lives.
In the second half of 2003, the Thessaloniki-based Greek state television
ET-3 withdrew funding for a documentary on Max Merten, a war criminal
who was tried in 1959 and convicted of responsibility for the Holocaust
relating to Greek Jews during World War II. The Greek Helsinki Monitor
("GHM") pointed out on 21 December in a letter to the Deputy
Interior Minister Nikos Bistis that "the fact of going back on
such a decision is tantamount to censorship and does not augur well
for the first commemoration of Holocaust Day." Bistis had recently
introduced a Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Simon Wiesenthal Center
also urged the Greek State television to reinstate its financial backing
for the documentary on the Nazi Holocaust.
On 28 December, the TV station Alter sent its reporter Antonis Papadopoulos,
a member of the ESIEA, along with a camera crew, to the public Nikea
General Hospital, after it received several telephone calls from relatives
of patients hospitalised there. They claimed that due to the large number
of patients needing medical treatment and a shortage of appropriate
rooms, the patients were put on so-called "rantza" beds in
the corridors of the hospital, where they were kept in poor conditions.
Papadopoulos and his crew went to investigate and were able to enter
the hospital without any problem. They even filmed the situation, which
proved to correspond to the accusations made by the patients? relatives.
Soon people from a private security company, who are responsible for
order in the hospital, arrived and attacked the crew. Papadopoulos was
beaten repeatedly. His clothes were torn, his bag taken. He was forced
to go to the basement of the building where he was questioned. Those
who questioned him had no right to do so.
The police arrived later and took Papadopoulos and the persons who
had beaten him to the neighbouring police station, where they
all gave evidence. The tape on which the beginning of the incident was
was returned to Alter and shown nation-wide. SEEMO sent a letter
of protest, asking the authorities in Greece to carry out an immediate
and thorough investigation and to bring to justice those responsible
for the attack.