Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed by the threats that Greece’s neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), has repeatedly made against the media. The party has just entered parliament by winning 7 per cent of the vote in the 6 May legislative elections.
“We find the hate speech that Golden Dawn uses towards the media really alarming,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“These words have significance. Journalists have already often been the target of public condemnation in this extremely tense political climate and many have been physically attacked. Politicians have a duty to act responsibly and not poison the situation. Needless to say, protection of the media is vital in a healthy democracy.”
Journalists were treated with extraordinary aggression at the news conference that Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos gave on 6 May after the close of polls. “Stand up, show respect,” party members shouted at reporters as he entered the room. Those who refused to stand up were thrown out.
Michaloliakos dedicated much of his ensuing statement to hostile comments about the media. “You have accused me, you have defamed me, you have prevented me from speaking and I have defeated you,” he said. “Golden Dawn’s victory is a victory against the mass media’s tyranny, against the junta of TV and the gutter press.
“The fight will go on (...) in parliament and outside (...) When the filthy TV channels were broadcasting porn movies after 2 p.m. and disgusting illegal adverts, [our brave boys] were running through the villages, waving the Greek flag. For those who betray this country, the time has come for fear. We are coming (...) Shame to those who accuse us.”
Such comments are not new from a party that made vitriolic criticism of the media one of its campaign themes. Golden Dawn responded with threats to a column in the daily I Kathimerini on 12 April in which Xenia Kounalaki said the party should not be allowed to participate in the elections.
A long reaction posted anonymously on the Golden Dawn website contained many personal details about Kounalaki’s personal life, mocked her supposedly “foreign roots” (she was born in Hamburg), mentioned her 13-year-old daughter for no clear reason and ended with a threat in German (her “mother tongue”): “Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat, kommt Attentat!” It means: Get wiser with time or get attacked.
“The threats made against Xenia Kounalaki are unacceptable and must be properly investigated,” Reporters Without Borders added. “They constitute an act of intimidation towards all journalists who might be tempted to criticize Golden Dawn. Such behaviour is intolerable in a democracy in which the rule of law is supposed to prevail.”
When Kounalaki filed a complaint about the threat with the police, she was reportedly told there was little they could do as the post was anonymous. Golden Dawn’s website has since been closed by the WordPress blog platform for “violation of terms of service,” namely “inciting violence and threats against a private individual.”
The media have been badly hit by the serious economic, social and political crisis in Greece, which is ranked 70th out of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Exposed to the same economic problems as other Greeks, journalists are also often deliberately targeted by the police when covering demonstrations.
(Picture from the press conference: Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP)