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Closure of Greek Public Broadcaster Further Stifles Media Freedom
The Greek government’s sudden decision to shut down the state broadcaster, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), is the most serious in a series of worrying developments for media freedom in the country. The move deals another devastating blow to the ability of the media to provide citizens with information from a variety of viewpoints in a country that is already suffering due to an unprecedented economic crisis. The Greek media sector has experienced widespread staff cutbacks and closures of private outlets as well as increased political and legal pressure on journalists, especially those reporting on the government’s controversial austerity policies.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou announced the decision to shut down ERT at 11 p.m. local time June 11, referring to the broadcaster as “a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance.” Within hours, ERT’s broadcasting capabilities were shut down, its website became inaccessible, and riot police surrounded ERT buildings and ordered remaining employees to vacate the premises. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government closed ERT—which operated five nationwide television channels and several radio stations—by ministerial decree, without consulting parliament or the public; two coalition partners have already announced their opposition to the move. Kedikoglou said that ERT, which had been broadcasting for 75 years, would soon reopen with a leaner structure, and that current employees would be able to apply for jobs at the new organization.
The announcement was immediately followed by protests outside ERT’s headquarters, and two of the country’s labor unions called for a 24-hour strike on Thursday, June 13. The more than 2,600 employees staged a sit-in and continued broadcasting online through Wednesday. Greece has been under pressure from international lenders to cut additional civil service jobs, including 2,000 by the end of the summer.
Greece declined from Free to Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2013.
Freedom in the World 2013: Greece
Freedom of the Press 2013: Greece
Blog: The European Economic Crisis has Coincided with a Decline in Press Freedom in the EU