Reporters Without Borders, which last visited Greece in September 2011 to investigate the collapse in the media environment and the future of journalism, is alarmed by the steady decline in respect for media freedom and firmly condemns the neo-Nazi abuses against journalists and news media now taking place on an almost daily basis.
“The rise of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has unfortunately been accompanied by a very significant increase in abuses against media personnel,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are no longer able to count the number of journalists and bloggers who have been threatened or physically attacked by extreme right-wing bullies.
“Attacks on private or professional property, home-made bomb attacks on offices or homes, intimidation by phone or email, and threats to family members are now part of everyday life for many news providers, who usually ask not to be named to avoid drawing attention and thereby remain at least minimally ‘employable.’
“Any article or mention that is the least bit critical of Golden Dawn’s activities elicits reprisals from its supporters that are often public and even openly acknowledged. By branding news media and their employees as ‘enemies of the nation,’ Gold Dawn is becoming a very strong contender for inclusion in our list of ‘Predators of Freedom of Information.’
“We again urge the authorities to quickly address this problem. Their silence and lack of action in the face of the mounting violence against journalists are tantamount to capitulating to the enemies of democracy. Will we really have to wait for a journalist to be killed before investigations are launched and, more importantly, completed?
“The continuing impunity for these acts of violence will only encourage these extremists to maintain this climate of hate. It is vital that the negotiations currently under way about a law designed to combat such violence should include guarantees for the media.
“The European Parliament is itself finding it hard to help the Greek media. An exhibition of photos by the Professional Association of Greek Press Photographers, showing the dangers to which they are exposed, had been scheduled for 4 June and we deeply regret that the European Parliament’s administration cancelled it at the last minute.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “As a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom Thought in 2005, we hope that the European Parliament will keep its promise to host this exhibition in June in an appropriate place and with the necessary visibility.”
The report that Reporters Without Borders issued in 2011 asked, “Could the crisis help media freedom in Greece?” Some journalists used the crisis as an opportunity to create newspapers based on an alternative and more participative method of funding.
Reporters Without Borders met the staff of The Newspaper of the Reporters on the day that it produced its 100th issue. This daily is one of the few independent news outlets in Greece and has specialized in investigative journalism and in covering the activities of Golden Dawn.
See the video about The Newspaper of the Reporters by RWB
The neo-Nazi party’s barbaric behaviour is not just affecting the “traditional” media. The financial crisis and the collapse of the media’s traditional economic model have forced many journalists to seek refuge online.
“Even if it means not being paid, you can at least be useful and try to do what is no longer possible to do in the print media,” a former senior journalist with a leading daily told Reporters Without Borders. News websites were still peripheral in 2011, but they are growing in number and are gradually become the main source of news and information for much of the public.
Although the neo-Nazis now pose the main threat for the media, older dangers are still present. Radical anarchist groups attacks reporters during demonstrations, as do the security forces, often with exceptional brutality.
The statements and undertakings made to Reporters Without Borders during its 2011 visit have not been translated into any concrete action. The riot police have not changed their behaviour during protests and still regard photographers, cameramen and soundmen as unwelcome witnesses of their use of excessive force.
Greece’s journalists are also exposed to judicial persecution, especially when they take too much interest in certain business interests. We hope that the judicial authorities show some common sense during the trial of Kostas Vaxevanis, the editor of the weekly Hot Doc, which is due to start on 10 June.
It is vital that Vaxevanis, who was arrested for publishing the so-called “Lagarde” list, is acquitted of all the charges against him.
Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis / AFP