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SEEMO Alarmed over Worsening Media Freedom in Greece

World | November 12, 2012, Monday // 14:36| Views: 803 | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: SEEMO Alarmed over Worsening Media Freedom in Greece Members of the media demonstrate in central Athens, Greece, 05 November 2012. Media workers are on strike for the second time in less than a week. EPA/BGNES

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), has registered an increase in attacks and pressure on Greek journalists, it said in a statement.

"Greek police and courts appear to be slow when investigating and condemning attacks against journalists and extremely fast when detaining media representatives," SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

On 4 November 2012, TV Skai journalist Michalis Tezaris was reportedly beaten in Athens while photographing individuals who were attacking immigrants and their property, according to the Athens-based daily Ekathimerini.

On 31 October 2012, authorities detained 75-year old journalist Spiros Karatzaferis, several hours after he appeared on ART TV, a local station in Arta in western Greece, and announced that the hacker group Anonymous had provided him with some 40,000 files taken from the Ministry of Finance that allegedly showed fraud associated with the government's decision to seek financial bailouts.

Karatzaferis – who was arrested on an older, unrelated warrant for criminal libel after he said he would publish the allegedly-compromising information – was later released due to ill health and ordered to pay 24-year old debt to the state, SEEMO learned.

On 29 October 2012, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, presenters of news-magazine "Morning Information" on the public broadcaster NET TV were suspended until further notice following the conclusion of that day's edition of the show.

They were suspended after they commented on Minister of Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias' threat to sue British newspaper The Guardian for publishing an article on alleged torture of detained left-wing protesters by police. Several days after The Guardian published the article, Greek doctors issued reports about injuries the protestors suffered that lent support to the allegations.

On 21 September 2012, a special cyber-police squad detained a 27-year old blogger, accusing him of blasphemy. The unnamed man was accused of being behind a satirical Facebook page that poked fun at the cult surrounding Orthodox monk Elder Paisios, who died in 1994.

The page contained manipulated photographs that replaced Paisios face with pastitsio, a traditional Greek dish. The prosecutor accused the blogger of blasphemy, but later reformulated the accusation. The blogger is awaiting trial for insulting the divine. In March 2012, Greece increased the punishment for blasphemy.

As SEEMO reported, on 28 October 2012, authorities arrested journalist Costas Vaxevanis and charged him with breach of privacy after he published in his Hot Doc magazine the names of 2,059 Greeks who allegedly hold accounts with HSBC in Switzerland.

Vaxevanis said the list he published was the same list given by then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to her Greek counterpart in 2010. Greek authorities have faced accusations that they took no action to investigate whether those named in the list, including politicians and businessmen, were evading taxes.

Vaxevanis was put on trial within the week and faced at least one year in prison and a fine of EUR 30 000 if found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, but the court acquitted him on 1 November 2012. The case received widespread coverage around the world and generated public protests from both Greek and international press freedom and human rights organizations.

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Tags: greece, media, media freedom, press freedom, SEEMO, Oliver Vujovic, Spiros Karatzaferis
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