Media freedom in Greece is highly problematic and it has deteriorated since the election of the center-right New Democracy in 2019, an international report published on Monday says.
According to the report by Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), challenges to the independence of the media and the safety of journalists are systemic in the country. “While the problems are not unique, their intensity is highly problematic and sets it apart from most other EU Member States,” the report notes.
MFRR is a Europe-wide mechanism that tracks, monitors, and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.
The report, which followed a fact-finding mission to Greece, says that news that is inconvenient or unflattering for the government, which includes reporting on serious human rights violations, does not get reported in many outlets.
“There has been a deterioration of press freedom since Nea Dimokratia’s electoral victory in 2019, who are obsessed with controlling the message and minimizing critical and dissenting voices, as we heard again and again during the fact-finding mission.”
Murder of a journalist “a low point for media freedom”
MFRR says that the murder of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was shot outside his home in Athens in April 2011, represents a low point for media freedom in Greece and highlights the significant problems with journalists’ safety.
“The investigation progress appears slow and lacks basic transparency, which has had a chilling effect and leads to mistrust about the authorities’ ability or willingness to protect the journalistic community.”
It also adds that migration policy, human rights violations committed in its implementation including pushbacks, and the humanitarian crisis that the refugee stream has created are highly sensitive topics for the government. “Reporting on the issue is increasingly difficult, as journalists face obstructions including arbitrary arrest and detention, restriction of access to migration hotspots, surveillance, and harassment.”
Reporting on protest is another particularly problematic area of journalistic practice in Greece, the reports says.
“Journalists face aggression and harassment from law enforcement and from protesters. Overall, there is a lack of political will to ensure that journalists can safely report from demonstrations, which translates to a lack of adequate protection at the operational level.”
In light of these findings, the MFRR has issued a series of recommendations to the Greek authorities and to the European community, including the institutions of the European Union and the other EU Member States.
Tsipras: Greece becomes a problematic country on media freedom
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis “is obsessed with controlling information,” said SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance leader Alexis Tsipras in social media on Monday.
“This is not Syriza’s words,” added the main opposition party leader, “it says so in the report published by seven international press organizations.” Tsipras cited the report titled ‘Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece’, released by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR).
The government is “turning Greece into a problematic country as regards to freedom of the press, which is a problem for democracy too,” he noted.