A journalist was harassed by the police in Greece earlier this week in yet another incident that has highlighted the problematic state of freedom of press in the country.
Veteran photojournalist Nikos Pilos was arrested on Tuesday during a police operation to clear a squat at Prosfygika, a run-down block of buildings in central Athens.
Among the dozens arrested in the operation was Pilos who was held at a police station for more than seven hours despite showing his journalist credentials.
“I declared my identity to the police, yet they brought me in and charged me with a bunch of felony charges,” Pilos told Sto Kokkino, a radio station.
The journalist was charged with several felonies, including disturbance of public peace combined with causing bodily harm by complicity.
The police operation at Prosfygika targeted a 27-year-old man who is a suspect in several bombing attacks in Athens, including an attack against the media group Real.
Speaking on Thursday, Giannis Economou, a government spokesman, insisted that Pilos did not show his credentials to police officers but admitted that the charges against him were due to a “technical error.” He did not specify what the error was.
IPI, the global network for independent media, condemned the arrest and harassment of Pilos and called on Greek authorities to drop the charges.
🇬🇷#Greece: IPI calls on @hellenicpolice to immediately drop all criminal charges filed against photojournalist @nikospilos. No evidence whatsoever has been presented. This is yet another serious case for #mediafreedom. @FPAGreece@MediaFreedomEU alert⬇️https://t.co/5YNzHCbVLv pic.twitter.com/boBgYh5bo1
— IPI – The Global Network for Independent Media (@globalfreemedia) November 24, 2022
The arrest was also condemned by the Foreign Press Association of Greece, which called for the dropping of all charges.
“The obstruction of the work of journalists and photojournalists causes particular disappointment…The aim of the authorities should be to facilitate and not hinder the role of journalists,” a statement said.
American journalist harassed by police in Greece
In October, an award-winning American photojournalist reported an attack by a member of the Greek riot police (MAT) in Exarchia, Athens.
The photojournalist was on the scene covering events unfolding at the time on Strefi Hill, where residents were protesting in response to a project that would create a metro station in the area.
As recorded in videos circulating on the internet, the MAT were chasing down citizens in Exarchia and then attacked the photojournalist, Ryan Thomas, who was covering the events and assaults of Greek police on protesters.
— Ryan Thomas (@ryanthomasphoto) October 3, 2022
Greece drops to 108th in the World Press Freedom Index
Greece has dropped to 108th in the World Press Freedom Index, ranking last among EU member states. The index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) defines the levels of press freedom in the country as ‘problematic,’ raising concerns not only about the freedom of the press but also about the state of the rule of law.
Another report by the Committee to Protect Journalists released in October says that the two unsolved journalist killings over the last twelve years as well as threats of violence and physical attacks against reporters have contributed to a climate of fear and self-censorship in Greece.
Investigative journalist Sokratis Giolias, who was killed in 2010, and crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed in 2021, were gunned down in similar circumstances by professional hitmen in the streets. There have been no arrests in either case.
Adding to the sense of insecurity is the wiretapping of two reporters by Greek intelligence services, it is said.