Reporters Without Borders urges the Greek government to immediately reverse its absurd decision to shut down the public broadcaster ERT’s three TV stations, which went off the air yesterday at 20:00 GMT, a few hours after the government announced their suspension.
The government’s spokesman said the broadcaster had to be closed for restructuring because it was a “haven of waste” but the future outcome of the proposed overhaul was left unclear.
“We are stunned and dismayed by this sudden and savage decision,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Does the Greek government think it can economize on democracy?"
“With the economic crisis already endangering the country that gave birth to democracy, the closure of ERT’s TV stations shows a contempt for freedom of information, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government’s methods are incredible.”
Media freedom has declined steadily in Greece since 2011. The media’s financial model has collapsed as a result of the financial crisis and many journalists have been forced to seek refuge on the Internet. News websites are growing in number and are gradually becoming the main source of news and information for many citizens.
“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 during its visit to Greece in June 2011.
Greece’s journalists are also exposed to judicial persecution, especially when they take too much interest in certain business interests. The victims include Kostas Vaxevanis, the editor of the weekly Hot Doc, whose trial for publishing the “Lagarde List” of suspected tax dodgers began on 10 June.
At the same time, journalists and media – both traditional and online – are the constant target ofthreats and violence from neo-Nazis, while radical anarchist groups attack reporters during demonstrations, as do the security forces, often with exceptional brutality.
Greece is ranked 84th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, a fall of 14 places from 2012.