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FACTDROP: Freedom House: “Greece now belongs to the “Partially Free” countries”
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5/02/2013

Freedom House: “Greece now belongs to the “Partially Free” countries”


Greece’s score dropped from 30 to 41 points and its status fell from Free to Partly Free due to closures of, or cutbacks at, numerous print and broadcast outlets; a related reduction in media diversity and effective reporting about the country’s political and economic situation; and heightened legal and physical harassment of journalists.

In the most prominent case, journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested in October and charged with violation of privacy for publishing, in his investigative magazine Hot Doc, the so-called Lagarde List of prominent Greek citizens who had transferred funds to Swiss bank accounts, allegedly to avoid paying taxes in Greece. The list had been given to the Greek government by then French finance minister Christine Lagarde in 2010, but Greek officials had taken no action. Though Vaxevanis was initially acquitted, in November prosecutors announced that he would face a retrial because the original verdict had “lacked credibility.”

The regulatory environment for broadcasting remains murky. The most recent licenses for radio stations were issued in 2002, and for television stations in the late 1990s. The original terms of all extant licenses have since expired. The government has passed successive one-year extensions of all broadcast licenses, and this practice continues even though a 2011 decision by the Council of State declared it unconstitutional. Many radio and television stations are operating with a permit, which can be revoked at any time, while others function without any kind of license. Since no new licenses have been issued in several years, the only way to enter the broadcast market is by purchasing an existing station. Moreover, a policy that has recently been enforced by the NCRTV requires stations to classify their programming as either news oriented or non–news oriented. Stations in the latter category are not permitted to air any news-related programming, and have been fined for doing so. It is difficult for stations to change classifications once they have been set, though enforcement of the rule is uneven, with more politically and economically influential stations often avoiding punishment.

Among other cases, in February the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV)—an independent agency that oversees broadcast media—fined radio station Real FM €25,000 ($32,600) for comments made on the air by journalist Giorgos Tragas about German chancellor Angela Merkel that were deemed to be defamatory. In September, a blogger using the pseudonym “Geron Pastitsios” was arrested on charges of malicious blasphemy for maintaining a satirical Facebook page for Elder Paisios, a deceased religious figure who remains popular with segments of the Greek populace. In October, television journalist Spiros Karatzaferis was arrested a day before he was to broadcast potentially damning allegations regarding the government’s alteration of economic data. Karatzaferis was arrested on an unrelated warrant that had not previously been acted upon. Also in October, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias threatened to file a lawsuit against Britain’s Guardian newspaper for alleging in an article that detained Greek protesters were tortured and beaten at police headquarters in Athens. The story was initially not widely reported by Greek media. Dendias backed down after a medical examiner’s report confirmed that the protesters had been abused.

The regulatory environment for broadcasting remains murky. The most recent licenses for radio stations were issued in 2002, and for television stations in the late 1990s. The original terms of all extant licenses have since expired. The government has passed successive one-year extensions of all broadcast licenses, and this practice continues even though a 2011 decision by the Council of State declared it unconstitutional. Many radio and television stations are operating with a permit, which can be revoked at any time, while others function without any kind of license. Since no new licenses have been issued in several years, the only way to enter the broadcast market is by purchasing an existing station. Moreover, a policy that has recently been enforced by the NCRTV requires stations to classify their programming as either news oriented or non–news oriented. Stations in the latter category are not permitted to air any news-related programming, and have been fined for doing so. It is difficult for stations to change classifications once they have been set, though enforcement of the rule is uneven, with more politically and economically influential stations often avoiding punishment.

A trend of growing violence against journalists continued in 2012. A number of journalists were attacked and in some instances injured during protests against the country’s austerity plan. In March, correspondent Anthee Carassava was attacked by police and taken to a police station after covering an independence day military parade in Athens. In April, Manos Lolos, an accredited photographer covering a protest in Athens, was hospitalized with severe injuries after being beaten by police. Journalists were also attacked by individuals affiliated with Golden Dawn during the year, including Xenia Kounalaki, who was threatened in April after publishing a critical article on the party. In November, journalist Michael Tezari was beaten by members of Golden Dawn at an anti-immigrant demonstration. Separately, Konstantinos Bogdanos, a radio presenter and journalist for Skai TV, was violently assaulted by three men in Athens in May. And in September, an attempt was made on the life of Vaxevanis outside his home in Athens. No suspects were arrested by year’s end in either attack.

It should be noted that in 2013 the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV)—an independent agency that oversees broadcast media— ordered that the TV stations should avoid to transmit images of poor and abject people stating that this would insult their personalities.

You can read the report in PDF here.







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