Greece dropped 38 places in the world rankings of press freedom according to the annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published on Tuesday.
Greece dropped from 70th place in 2021 to 108th in 2022 and has become the lowest ranking country in the EU, according to the report.
Further, the assassination of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in April 2021 remains unsolved despite the government’s promise of a quick investigation, it adds.
The report notes that Greeks’ trust in the media has been consistently one of the lowest in Europe. This, it says, is due to a few large private groups like Skai coexisting alongside hundreds of online media outlets, thus contributing to high fragmentation of the media landscape.
The overwhelming majority of media is owned by a few individuals who are also active in other, highly-regulated business sectors. Moreover, some of them have close ties to the political elite. The press is thus very politically polarized, RSF says.
Press freedom in Greece undermined by new penal code
It notes that recent amendments to the criminal code—passed under the pretext of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic—allow for a disproportionate restriction of press freedom on shaky legal grounds.
Making the offense of spreading false information punishable by five years of imprisonment goes against Greece’s international commitments and European legal standards and represents a serious threat to journalists’ right to publish information in the public interest; this increases the risk of self-censorship, RSF argues.
The report also highlights what it calls a lack of transparency in public funding for media outlets and notes that police regularly resort to violence and arbitrary bans to hamper journalistic coverage of demonstrations and the refugee crisis on the islands.
It adds that a Dutch journalist had to leave the country for her own security after she was publicly attacked—in the street—following a smear campaign by the pro-government media over her heated exchange with the prime minister about migrant pushbacks.