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Journalists caught between radical groups and police violence in Greece

Protests go on: Greek policemen demonstrate outside the Finance Ministry in Athens on December 14. Hundreds of unionists protested against proposed wage cuts in Greece's inefficient public utility services as a transport strike sparked huge traffic snarls in the capital.

Posters have appeared near the parliament building in central Athens listing journalists accused of being “thugs” and “rogues” for their perceived support for the government in the current crisis. Leaflets with the names and photos of some of the journalists were also scattered in the same area, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has reported.

“In an already tense and dangerous climate for all journalists, this poster and leaflet campaign is just heightening the tension,” RSF said. “Media coverage of the unrest in Greece in recent months may be legitimately criticized and some journalists and media may have broken some of the rules of professional conduct, but last weekend’s ‘response’ by radical groups is unacceptable and cannot go unpunished.

“We urge the authorities to investigate and identify those responsible for this campaign, which is clearly not protected by the right to free speech. We also deplore the tendency to associate journalists with the current government’s political decisions. The photos taken during the demonstrations and the articles analyzing them may have been embarrassing for some and may reflect only part of the reality, but their publication clearly served a public interest.

“Under the pretext of condemning the media’s alleged subjugation to the government and its propaganda, these radical groups are just trying to impose their own forms of censorship and propaganda. Defending media independence by encouraging physical violence against those who work for the media is completely unacceptable. We point out that all political tendencies in Greece gave the right to create and edit their own media.”

RSF said it was also disturbed by the increase in cases of police violence against journalists and reiterates its appeal to the interior minister to issue clear instructions to the police to stop targeting journalists covering demonstrations.

“Blows, insults, cameras destroyed or confiscated, photos deleted, memory cards damaged, arrests and gratuitous bureaucratic harassment are now all part of the daily fare for reporters and photographers,” it said. “We remind all the authorities concerned that most of the journalists covering demonstrations are clearly identified as working for the press and cannot be confused with the demonstrators.

“Journalists have clearly been the target of some particularly heavy-handed police interventions, especially when they have been taking photos of excessive use of force by the police. We also point out that press photographers are not police auxiliaries and are not required to hand over copies of their photos, or still less, the originals to the police. Use of press photos for purposes other than information cannot be imposed on the media.”

Greece was ranked 70th out of 178 countries in the 2010 RSF press freedom index.

Date posted: December 21, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 133