“A provision that recalls the junta of colonels”, we judge from the side of Esiea, the union of the editors of Athens. The first media union in Greece had unsuccessfully campaigned this fall against the “fake news” amendment to the new penal code adopted by parliament on 11 November. From now on, the spread of fake news “Causing concern or fear among citizens” or can “Undermine confidence in the national economy, the country’s defense capabilities or public health” is punishable by three months to five years in prison. The junta, in 1969, had introduced this notion of false news likely to shake the confidence of the public, had recalled, indignantly, the media union at the end of September.
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“This article is so general that it can be applied to any subject”, denounces Eva Cossé, head of the NGO Human Rights Watch in Greece. “Investigating and speaking out on matters of public interest, whether it be pandemic management or migration policy, can potentially lead to prison”, she believes. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), for its part, called the 1er December, the European institutions in “Firmly denounce the new penal code” and “To ask the Greek government to overhaul it”.
The investigation is slipping into the assassination of Giorgos Karaivaz
This penal reform takes place in a particularly deleterious context in Greece. Nine months after the assassination of investigative journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, the investigation has not progressed. Assassinated in broad daylight outside his home in Athens on April 9, this criminal affairs specialist was investigating the mafia and scandals affecting members of the conservative government of the New Democracy party.
Dutch journalist Ingeborg Beugel, who has lived in Greece for 40 years, announced on November 17 that, fearing for her safety, she would leave the country on the advice of her embassy. After sharply asking, during a press conference on November 9, the head of government Kyriakos Mitsotakis if he counted “Stop lying” on the allegations of refoulement of migrants at sea, the latter, furious, replied that she had no right to come and insult him.
Overwhelmed by a smear campaign, accused of being a pro-Turkish agent and even assaulted in the street, Ingeborg Beugel can no longer leave her home alone. “I have two lawsuits against me. Journalists are arrested and worried, NGOs and humanitarian workers are intimidated, demonized, criminalized. The only goal is to scare people ”, she blasted, reports the International Press Institute.
Allegations of espionage
Three days earlier, on November 14, the Efsyn newspaper published documents revealing that journalist Stavros Malichudis, and possibly other journalists from investigative media Solomon, which works on migrants in particular, was being spied on by the EYP intelligence service. government.
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The government’s denials have not calmed the concerns of international press freedom organizations gathered within the European Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) mechanism responsible for monitoring media freedom violations. The MFRR has decided to launch a fact-finding mission during the first half of December in Greece to “Assess growing concerns about media freedom and the safety of journalists”.
“Greece takes the path of Hungary”
“Greece takes the path of Hungary”, worries Eva Cossé. RSF drew up a gloomy assessment last spring of the Conservative government’s desire to “Tightly control the dissemination of information”, by listing a series of black dots. Among them, censored reports on the public channel supervised by a deputy minister to the prime minister. But also the media, because they are considered too critical, deprived of funding for the awareness campaign on Covid, reports in hospitals which are only possible with the authorization of the government, etc.
In RSF’s latest press freedom ranking, Greece fell by five points to now sit at 70e square. For the year 2021, annus horribilis as for freedom of expression, its dropout will be worse.