The murder of a journalist in Greece is always a shocking event that shakes the foundations of the nation’s core freedoms.
The country has been witnessing an alarming increase in violent incidents against reporters since the beginning of 2010.
Prominent Greek journalist George Karaivaz was brutally murdered on Friday morning by two unknown individuals in the southern suburb of Alimos in Athens.
His murder shocked not only Greece but Europe and the world as well.
Many people in Greece instantly remembered another grim day; July 19, 2010, when another prominent Greek journalist, Socrates Giolias, fell dead from the gunshots of unknown perpetrators outside his house and in front of his pregnant wife.
Karaivaz was prominent journalist in Greece
The shocking incident took place in broad daylight at the heart of Alimos in southern Athens.
Karaivaz, a widely recognizable and highly respected figure of Greece’s crime and investigation journalism, was going home after the TV show he works for on Greece’s STAR Channel was over.
Two men on a small motorcycle, allegedly wearing what appeared to be army clothes, shot Karavaiz at least six times as the journalist was exiting his car near his home.
Reports on Greek media mention 12 to 17 or even 20 shell casings having being found at the scene, and details indicate that the killers used a silencer, as neighbors didn’t hear any gunshots.
The brutal murder of Karaivaz was strongly condemned by all of Greece’s political establishment.
Even Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, issued a statement late on Friday night.
Murdering a journalist is a despicable, cowardly act.
Europe stands for freedom. And freedom of press may be the most sacred of all. Journalists must be able to work safely.
My thoughts are with the family of George Karaivaz. I hope the criminals are soon brought to justice.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 9, 2021
”Murdering a journalist is a despicable, cowardly act. Europe stands for freedom,’’ von der Leyen noted.
”And freedom of press may be the most sacred of all. Journalists must be able to work safely. My thoughts are with the family of George Karaivaz. I hope the criminals are soon brought to justice.’’ the President stated.
Statements of condemnation for the cowardly-committed murder were also issued by the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, by Aristotelia Peloni, the spokeswoman of the Greek government, and the rest of the groups of the Greek parliament.
The murder of Journalist Socrates Giolias
The assassination of George Karaivaz had alarming similarities with the incident that took place almost eleven years ago in Greece when another prominent journalist was shot dead.
Greek investigative journalist, blogger, and broadcaster Socrates Giolias was shot approximately 15 times at close range outside his home in the southeastern suburb of Ilioupoli (Heliopolis) in Athens.
Three men dressed as security guards arrived at Giolias’ residence at around 5:30 AM on July 19, 2010. Using the intercom, the men summoned Giolias out into the street from his home under the pretense that his car was probably being stolen.
Once Giolias stepped outside, the men reportedly opened fire with at least two 9 mm semi-automatic rifles.
The group fired a total of 16 shots and according to reports of the time, hit him “at least fifteen times” before driving away.
The identities of the perpetrators of this assassination are still unknown, but the weapons used were linked to previous attacks by a far-left terrorist organization, named ”the Sect of Revolutionaries.’’
Giolias was only 37 years of age when he tragically lost his life, and his murder shocked the entire nation at a time when the financial crisis had just started shaking Greece’s foundations.
He was one of the co-founders of a news Blogspot named ”Troktiko” which was Greece’s most popular alternative news source, with millions of daily readers.
Giolias had never said that he was behind the Troktiko website, however, his association with it was made public after his death.
The Mysterious Death of Publisher Panagiotis Mavrikos
Although not officially a murder, another deadly incident that took place in 2016 in Athens presents similarities with the assassinations of Karaivaz and Giolias.
Businessman, publisher, and later politician Panagiotis Mavrikos died tragically on June 9, 2016, while he was driving his car on the Attiki Odos highway in Athens.
The car was set ablaze and the unfortunate 42-year old publisher of the ”Acropolis” newspaper got trapped inside and died helplessly in the middle of the road.
Despite the extensive investigation of the Greek police, the fire on Mavrikos’ car could equally be a tragic accident or a well-planned crime.
Months after the incident, the Greek police declared that there were no traces of a deliberate act that could have set Mavrikos’ car on fire, however, Greek media speculated differently at the time.
Murder attempt against journalist Stefanos Chios
Another attempt against the life of a journalist in Greece was the one that took place in July 2020.
In the early hours of July 27, Chios was driving home after leaving the premises of the newspaper he publishes titled ”Makeleio,” in the Athenian suburb of Ampelokipi.
Chios was shot twice in very close proximity while he was parking his car outside of his house.
Fortunately for the man, the bullets did not hit any vital organ of his body, and after a few days of hospitalization, he was able to return back to work.
It has to be noted that Chios is an extremely controversial figure in Greece, who has been the target of threats by many far-left groups in the country.
His newspaper is being accused of being a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and anti-communist publication that repeatedly spreads fake news and conspiracy theories. Chios, himself, has been arrested in the past and has been sentenced for libel against politicians, journalists, and celebrities in various cases.
Press Freedom in Greece
According to the Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit and non-governmental organization that promotes the right to freedom of information, Greece was in 65th place out of a total of 180 nations in terms of freedom of press in 2020.
Greece’s position ranks the country among the least free states of the EU, near nations such as Hungary and Poland, which are infamous for their treatment of investigative journalism.
”Centre-right New Democracy party enjoyed a landslide victory over incumbent SYRIZA in the July 2019 general election. Soon afterward, a new presidential decree, placed public broadcaster ERT and state news agency ANA-MPA under the direct supervision of the new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It remains to be seen how this new set-up will affect press freedom in the country,” the Reporters Without Borders state in their website.
However, according to the same organization, Greece has been steadily improving its global position since 2013.
More specifically, the country ranked 99/180 in 2014, while in 2020, Greece saw its highest position with the ranking being at 65/180. Still, though, it lags behind northern European nations, such as Germany or Norway, and Sweden, which are very high in the press freedom index.