Three journalists were suspended on Tuesday by the state-run Greek broadcaster ERT for remarks about policing in the nation. The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists’ Union (POESY) has called on ERT employees to strike and demand the immediate withdrawal of the “persecution” of the news anchors.
During a morning news broadcast on ERT, hosts Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi commented on Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias’s threat to sue the British publication the UK Guardian. The Guardian published an article on Oct. 9 about the Greek police torturing anti-fascist protesters following a demonstration in Athens on Sept. 30.
The on-air conversation between the hosts was transcribed by Arvantis on his blog. It was quoted by Global Voices Online, an international site that compiles reports from blogs and citizen media:
Ms. 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?
Ms. Katsimi: He didn’t, because the findings show that it is indeed a felony.
Mr. Arvanitis: Is he going to resign now?
Ms. Katsimi: I do not think so. […]
Mr. Arvanitis: And now what? Will he say he is sorry?
Ms. 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.
Ms. Katsimi: And he is a serious man, I have to say.
Newly-appointed ERT Director Emilios Liatsos suspended the anchors, saying they violated the journalists’ code of ethics.
Liatsos justified the decision stating that the reporters made “unacceptable insinuations against Minister Nikos Dendias, not giving him the right to express his opinion,” according to the publication Greek Reporter. He wrote in a notice that “Their comments were like a preliminary presentation of the result of the judgment.”
Minutes after their removal, Arvanitis tweeted: “Apparently, Mr. Liatsos cut us off,” according to Global Voices. Messages of support from viewers filled his blog page.
Katsimi criticized the suspension. She told Enter TV that “[The decision] seems quite excessive and unfounded. [I] did not say something that should not be said, neither accuse anyone.”
A third reporter was suspended, according to the Greek Reporter, on ER3 one of the networks under ERT. His suspension came after he commented on policing at a festival in Thessaloniki, the second largest Greek city.
When he commented that the policing was strict, his colleague in the studio responded that it was necessary. The reporter then said, “The government has to think about why things have come to this point.”
Tuesday’s suspensions follow on the heels of the arrest of prominent Greek investigative journalist, Costas Vaxevanis, last week. He was arrested for disclosing the names of approximately 2,000 wealthy Greeks holding Swiss bank accounts. Although he warned readers not to assume the individuals are guilty of tax evasion, he criticized the government for not investigating the list he says it has known about for years.
A spokeswoman for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) political party, Fofi Gennimata, said in a statement that, “PASOK believes that in order to win public television the place it deserves to be supported by the state. The best support is none other than to show trust in journalists, executives and staff of public television. Let’s unleash the forces of public television and radio.”
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