Greece: the small war between the press and the government
Greece: the small war between press and government

French President Hollande at weekend Mediterranean summit with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who currently prefers to avoid critical media. Image: W. Aswestopoulos

After the Greek government limited the number of television channels authorized to broadcast nationwide to four, this has caused an uproar among the television journalists concerned

Four rough channels, Alpha TV, Star TV, Epsilon, Mega, as well as the smaller ART channel, must cease operations within ninety days, effectively by the end of November. The nerves of the journalists, cameramen, sound technicians, video technicians and other production assistants who are threatened with unemployment are on edge. The entire opposition finds fault with the government’s actions.

The latter now steers an autocratic course towards the press. Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili criticized private television stations for not interrupting their programming on Friday for the broadcast of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ speech at the EU-South meeting. She said that all channels had to broadcast the speech. Gerovasili openly admitted that, in her view, the government had a right to have a say in the shaping of the news.

As was to be expected, she received a shitstorm not only from the opposition, but also from almost all non-government media representatives. The next stage of escalation came promptly. At the traditional press conference of the Greek Prime Minister at the International Fair of Thessaloniki, Gerovasili excluded most of the media critical of the government from the possibility of asking questions. Instead of representatives of the print press with coarse circulation, such as the liberal or neoliberal Blattern To Vima, Eleftheros Typos, Dimokratia, Proto Thema, blog operators close to SYRIZA and small, regional radios were allowed to ask questions. Representatives of the communist press were not allowed to ask questions either. The critical questions of the opposition from the left had certainly put Tsipras in distress.

Instead, the state news agency ANA was allowed to ask when Tsipras would finally put on a tie. Six of the three questions Gerovasili allowed went to SYRIZA party media or government-controlled media representatives.

An unpleasant question and an unnerved Tsipras

It became surreal when the journalist of the channel Alpha TV, threatened with closure, Evagelia Tsikrika, could ask a question after all. She addressed the Prime Minister and told him "Eye to eye", that it was not the economic crisis that made her unemployed, but he.

In addition, Tsipras wanted to boost the two new broadcasters with state funds so that they could hire their not-yet-existent staff more cheaply. Tsikrika asked the Prime Minister about the meaning of the bidding process for the licenses, when her station, the only Greek gross private station in the profit zone with 61 million euros, had offered more than two of the finally licensed stations.

With this, she directly addressed Tsipras to the statement made in parliament by Minister of State Nikos Pappas, that between a license and the station only the wallet of the station owner would stand. Finally, the complicated bidding process initiated by Pappas had led to the paradox that, in fact, the highest bidders over the whole process ended up empty-handed.

When Tsikrika also reminded Tsipras that when he first took office in January 2015, he had sworn in the subsequent government declaration that he would be "every letter of the treaty" When Tsipras pointed out the breach of the licensing procedure, the prime minister lost his composure. The constitution stipulates that licenses must be ied by the Broadcasting Council and not by a minister of state. It emphasizes the equality of the burgers, which was apparently pure luck and poker skill in the bidding process. The fact that the journalist also asked the prime minister where an ideologically left-wing policy was discernible in the entire process, Tsipras’ face darkened.

Tsipras reacted aggressively and annoyed. Instead of a detailed answer, the journalist was told that the governments of the process had deprived more people of their jobs and that she should not combine her interests with the profit of her employer.

The image of the enervated Tsipras falling into speech errors was anything but positive for the government. Therefore, during the broadcast of a repetition of the questions in the evening, the state broadcaster ERT only broadcast a summary of Tsipras’ answer – but without the journalist’s question.

A health minister wages a private war through Facebook

Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis used Tsikrika’s question as an opportunity to post defamatory comments against the lady on Facebook. He accompanied them with photos showing the journalist with politicians from Nea Dimokratia or PASOK. He failed to mention that, in addition to these photos, the journalist also posted numerous photos of Tsipras and his colleagues on her Facebook page. has. There is a bad habit among Greek journalists to be photographed with leading politicians and then post these shots on social networks.

Because Polakis also abruptly called her a servant girl and incense burner in the comments, Tsikrika hoped for help from the formally independent anti-discrimination authority – without success. The authority is headed by a former SYRIZA deputy.

Polakis, however, did not stop with his personal vendetta. He described the footage showing Tsikrika with Alexis Tsipras as a photomontage.

The journalists’ union ESIEA, which until recently was more pro-government, firmly backed the journalist, insisting that a broadcasting license should be subject to labor, journalistic and pluralistic conditions and that the government should not produce unemployed people.

Minister of State Nikos Pappas, on the other hand, defended his friend and prime minister in a radio interview on the party’s radio station Kokkino. He complains that he himself has become the target of the journalists who have become the servants of their employers.

As if this excitement of the press world, which itself became news, was not enough, on Tuesday there was the next faux pas blamed on the government. Traditionally, all the leaders of the parties represented in parliament give a speech at the Thessaloniki fair, followed by a press conference. The broadcasting of these speeches and press questions is one of the obligations of the state broadcaster, which has exclusive rights.

While the speech of Nikos Michaloliakos, General Secretary of the right-wing radical Golden Dawn, was broadcast in its entirety, the broadcast of the speech of Fofi Gennimata, President of PASOK, was stopped. Gennimata, who is trying to position PASOK to the left of SYRIZA in light of Tsipras’ swing to the right, apparently sees a government plot behind this affront. This is the first time that such a thing has happened. The broadcast of Gennimata’s speech was not continued even after the end of the interrupted news program.

On Friday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the compatibility of the licensing scheme initiated by Pappas. Not to think what will happen if the judges do not give their blessing to the procedure. Since the prime minister in Thessaloniki declared that there was no chance that the court would decide against the licensing, the local press is already spinning the story about government influence on the judiciary. It remains surreal in Greece’s political and press world.