During his Friday remarks before Parliament, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decried the widespread influence of social media in the world, especially with the youth, saying it was “bad for our democracy,” after police videos apparently showing excessive force went viral.
The harsh words come after a week in which the Greek price were roundly lambasted for their treatment of protesters in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni, when officers were videotaped beating up a man who was peacefully protesting coronavirus mandates on Sunday afternoon.
“Threat to democracy”
Blaming social media for the anger that spread throughout the nation after the video spread like wildfire, Mitsotakis blamed social media itself for the recent increase of unrest in the country.
Saying that social media itself was a “threat to democracy,” Mitsotakis made his remarks during a debate with main opposition leader and former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
After Tsipras had castigated the New Democracy leader all week long for the police brutality that occurred during his watch, Mitsotakis replied to him, saying that social media was “an echo chamber and young people are incapable of being critical towards the content they consume.
“Without questioning what they see” in police videos
“The way social media work today and the algorithms of the big platforms they use actually reproduce and reward whatever views they may already have,” the Greek Prime Minister explained.
“They create barriers — barriers of tension, not barriers of dialogue. Barriers that feed back on the stereotypes they already have. On both sides,” he stated.
“And that is bad for our democracy, it is bad for the level of our dialogue. Because in this way, young people are trapped in their views without developing their critical thinking, without questioning what they see, what anyone can serve them.”
Greek citizens had shared the disturbing footage on social media all week long. The video clearly showed police hitting an unarmed protestor with a baton during the demonstrations in Nea Smyrni, a suburb of south Athens, on Sunday.
The officer in the incident was suspended from the Greek Police and a prosecutor has begun to investigate it.
“No excuse for police violence”
Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis pledged that any offenses will be dealt with by criminal prosecution and disciplinary action, saying there “is no excuse for police violence.”
At the same time, government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said the images of the police seen during the incidents at Nea Smyrni Square were “disturbing for everyone” and the affair is under investigation.
She underlined that “pointless violence cannot be justified and internal investigative processes have been initiated with the Ombudsman.”
She rejected the main opposition SYRIZA’s accusations that the government was fostering a “police state” and accused the party of exploiting the psychological fatigue in society with this narrative to create a new “indignados” movement.
Allegations of video tampering by Greek media
Over the last week, additional videos have surfaced, with at least ten videos showing excessive use of force by the police, according to reports from vicegreece.
The hashtag #BoycottGreekMedia, employed by thousands of Greek citizens who continue to complaining about news coverage in the country, is trending worldwide.
Seemingly sweeping aside the reactions of many to the videos — not all of whom are young — Mitsotakis’ remarks appear to infer that only state broadcasters or other major news outlets in Greece are to be believed when it comes to the portrayal of the police.
Greek media reports stated on Friday that two mainstream television channels actually edited a caption into a video that showed police on motorcycles saying “Let’s f*ck them, let’s kill them.”
Other reports say that another channel showed footage that was in reality filmed by a journalist as if it had been taken by police officers.