Media Round Up 11/2: Censorship in Greece

//CGCS Presents this week’s Media Law Round Up – a collection of stories that developed over the week dealing with International Media Law & Policy, Freedoms of Speech, Information and Expression, Censorship, Privacy and all things Web 2.0. 
//This week, the RoundUp comes from CGCS Media Wire Editor Corey H. Abramson who provides a light analysis of recent exchanges in Greece.

The “Lagarde List”

A recent string of censorship issues have made headlines in Greece this week, starting with the quick arrest and trial of a news editor who released a list of some reported 2,000 Greek citizens potentially accused of tax evasion.

This past Sunday, October 28th, journalist for the investigative magazine “Hot Doc” Kostas Vaxevanis was arrested for printing what is known as the “Lagarde list” – a French investigative document passed on to Greek fiscal authorities back in 2010 by the then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who is “now head of the International Monetary Fund. [The list] had been seized from a former Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation bank employee in Geneva, who was suspected of trying to sell it.” From that point, the document has been passed around to various Greek government offices – each one doing little to pursue the names on the list.

The Lagarde list includes a healthy amount of upper class Greek citizens, “prominent politicians, artists and business people,” accused of evading taxation on funds they keep offshore in Swiss bank accounts – a serious charge given Greece’s rough economic climate but one citizens like Vaxevanis felt deserving of more media attention.

“Journalism is revealing the truth when everyone else is trying to hide it,” he said. “If anyone is accountable before the law, then it is those ministers who hid the list, lost it and said it didn’t exist. I only did my job. I am a journalist and I did my job.”

According to writer Barry Neild, “despite a pledge to crack down on tax evasion to help shrink [the] national debts that have reached in excess of $360 billion, the government did little with the list. One official even claimed to have lost it.”

Journalists caught in the media crossfire; Staff reacts

A day later, two morning show hosts, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, were fired immediately following their on-air analysis of an article in the Guardian, “Greek anti-fascist protesters ‘tortured by police’ after Golden Dawn clash.”

State controlled NET TV pulled the two off the air following an exchange of dialogue discussing the Lagarde List. While mention of the list itself was not enough to lose their posts, pointing a finger at Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias apparently was.

The transcript, as per GlobalVoices:

M. Katsimi: And here are the forensic findings for the 15 arrested people that The Guardian was writing about. For this case [Minister of Public Order] Mr. Dendias wanted to sue The Guardian
Mr. Arvanitis: Didn’t he?
M. Katsimi: He didn’t, because the findings show that it is indeed a felony.
Mr. Arvanitis: Is he going to resign now?
M. Katsimi: I do not think so. […]
Mr. Arvanitis: And now what? Will he say he is sorry?
M. Katsimi: I do not know ….
Mr. Arvanitis: Wow… that’s difficult for Mr. Dendias. And he is from the same place as you, from Corfu.
M. Katsimi: And he is a serious man, I have to say.

Moments later the duo was cut from the air, and let go from their posts. The ERT (Greek public television network) released a statement shortly after citing their respect for “the rules of Free Press… it’s proven in daily practice by presenting all views. However, it can not tolerate the violation of the basic standards of journalistic ethics.”

Tuesday morning, media professionals from all over Greece cut feeds for two hours in protest of “sacking of two chat-show presenters who mildly criticized a government minister.”

Nick Holdsworth, for elaborates on the followup by Greek broadcasters:

“A reporter for ERT channel 3 was removed from a live broadcast last week after stating that there was a “strong police presence” outside a church in Thessaloniki where the Greek prime minister and president were attending a mass.

Journalists at ERT voted to walk out for two hours Tuesday and hold rolling 24 hour strikes until the two presenters are re-instated.”

Freedom of Speech Suspended for “Athens 15”

In early October, fifteen protesters were arrested in Athens for clashing with neo-Nazi party supporters. Reports indicate that those arrested faced torture in “the Attica General Police Directorate (GADA) – the Athens equivalent of Scotland Yard – and subjected to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humiliation,” writes Guardian staff writer, Maria Margaronis.

A day later, another group of anti-fascist protesters were arrested for showing support and faced similar aggression and violence.  One man said he was denied desperately needed medical attention, while others have said they were deprived of sleep, clean water and privacy – the list of torture tactics goes on in heavy detail. (For a full account, please refer to the aforementioned Guardian article.)

Despite accusations by protesters’ lawyers and multimedia evidence, press spokesman for the Hellenic police Christos Manouras said: “There was no use of force by police officers against anyone in GADA. The Greek police examine and investigate in depth every single report regarding the use of violence by police officers; if there are any responsibilities arising, the police take the imposed disciplinary action against the officers responsible. There is no doubt that the Greek police always respect human rights and don’t use violence.”

Further Investigation, Timeline

10/9 Greek anti-fascist protesters ‘tortured by police’ after Golden Dawn clash

10/11 Greek police accused of using protester as human shield


Global Voices: Greece: Public TV Journalists Fired After Criticizing Minister Greek TV staff walk out over sackings


Global Post: Journalist’s arrest spreads fear in debt-stricken Greece Greece: two journalists suspended for criticizing a minister

//Media Wire will continue to follow these stories as they develop.  We look forward to your input, comments and suggestions.

Featured Photo Credit: PoliceMC.Gov.BH

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