Journalists and media outlets that exposed the wiretapping scandal in Greece in 2022 will appear in court on Thursday to face a defamation lawsuit in a case that Human Rights Watch says highlights the country’s deteriorating media freedom.
The scandal had rocked the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was under pressure to reveal who—if not the Prime Minister himself—was responsible for tapping the phones of politicians and journalists.
The lawsuit against two media outlets and three journalists was initiated by Grigoris Dimitriadis, the nephew and a close associate of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
It is in opposition to EFSYN newspaper, online investigative platform Reporters United, and its journalists Nikolas Leontopoulos and Thodoris Chondrogiannos, as well as freelance journalist Thanasis Koukakis. Dimitriadis is seeking €550,000 and the removal of an article implicating him in the wiretapping scandal.
In the fallout from the scandal, Dimitriadis resigned from his position as general secretary in the prime minister’s office and his role overseeing the National Intelligence Service (EYP).
Dimitriadis filed a second lawsuit in November 2023, again targeting EFSYN, three executives from the newspaper, and journalists Nikolas Leontopoulos, Thodoris Chondrogiannos, and Christoforos Kasdaglis from Reporters United.
This second lawsuit seeks damages of €3.3 million and demands the removal of further articles that reported on his alleged involvement in the surveillance scandal. Dimitriadis has also filed a separate lawsuit against Alter Ego Media group over similar reporting.
In a statement, media freedom groups called the lawsuit “a vexatious effort to muzzle investigative reporting.” They urged the plaintiff to urgently withdraw the lawsuit.
The chronicle of Greece’s wiretapping scandal
The scandal exploded in Greece in the summer of 2022, when Thanasis Koukakis, a well-known financial journalist in Greece, reported that his cell phone had been tapped with Israeli-made Predator spyware.
Things escalated after Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the PASOK-KINAL opposition party and a member of the European Parliament, also revealed he was targeted with Predator spyware, triggering a parliamentary probe on the matter.
On August 4, 2022, Panagiotis Kontoleon, who then headed EYP, admitted before a committee of lawmakers that the agency was spying on Koukakis.
Days later, Mitsotakis disclosed that Androulakis was also wiretapped but denied any knowledge of the operation. He acknowledged Androulakis had been under state surveillance (though not with Predator)—a move he called legal but wrong.
Mitsotakis was left with no option but to force Kontoleon to resign as well as his top aide and nephew Dimitriadis.
On November 6, 2022, the Documento newspaper published a list of thirty-three people who were allegedly spied on by the EYP on Dimitriadis’ direct orders.
They included Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolaos Chardalias, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, former Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, and former National Security Adviser Alexandros Diakopoulos.
Mitsotakis denied that his government was wiretapping senior politicians, businessmen, and journalists during an interview a day later.
He called the allegations aired by Documento newspaper that thirty-three people were targeted by spyware in his knowledge as “absolute lies, without any solid proof, and with no connection to the government,” during an interview on ANT1 TV.
“I wonder if there is anyone in Greece who truly believes that I was tracking the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of finance…This is a shame and a disgrace,” Mitsotakis pointed out.
A later report by the daily claimed that the EYP, which works directly under Mitsotakis, also wiretapped Chief of General Staff Konstantinos Floros, Chief of Land Forces Charalambos Lalousis, and General Director of Defense Investments and Armaments Theodoros Lagios.
Documento publisher Kostas Vaxevanis said the report on Greece’s wiretapping scandal makes it clear that Gen. Floros knew he was under surveillance and he cannot continue as defense chief. However, earlier in January 2022, the government extended his tenure for another year.