RSF is alarmed by the “deterioration” of press freedom in Greece | Press Freedom News
Athens, Greece – Concerns about press freedom in Greece have been raised by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as the media watchdog releases its World Press Freedom Index.
In the list, which is published every year and ranks 180 countries in the world from “good” to “very bad”, Greece loses five places.
The European Union member state is now at 70, up from 65 in 2020, a rating seen as “problematic”.
The new clue comes as concerns grow over the case of Giorgos Karaivaz, a Greek journalist working for private TV channel Star TV, who was shot dead outside his home on his way home from work in southern Athens he two weeks ago.
It remains unclear whether the murder was work-related, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a “despicable and cowardly act” in a tweet, adding: “Europe is synonymous with freedom, and freedom of the press is perhaps the most sacred of all.
Over the past year there have been several reports of journalists being harassed by police while covering lockdown protests.
In February, Paris-based RSF called for an investigation after seven journalists were tear gassed and beaten with batons and shields during a protest.
RSF described the incident as an “unprovoked attack by the police”.
Journalists who interact with government officials have also reported significant difficulties.
Greek journalist Dimitra Kroustalli said in January she was forced to resign from her post at the To Vima newspaper after “suffocating pressure” from the Greek prime minister’s office.
Kroustalli had covered flaws in the systems used to track and monitor COVID-19 cases.
Grants totaling 20 million euros given to blogs and media to fund COVID awareness campaigns also came under scrutiny last year when it was revealed in June that some of the media had no web pages.
Stavros Malichudis, a freelance journalist based in Athens, the capital, said the recent murder of a media worker has brought press freedom back into the spotlight in Greece.
“Until Karaivaz’s murder, Greece was not considered a country where journalists could be killed for doing their job. Press freedom, however, has definitely been an issue,” Malichudis told Al Jazeera.
“Public television coverage has always favored the government, rather than the public it should serve. Journalists working for mainstream media know that there are specific topics they can’t even tell a story about and big companies rarely get coverage in the press where only their ads appear.
“Another issue is the restriction of coverage of refugees by the Greek government, which has already been criticized by media watchdogs.”
“Strict control of information”
Meanwhile, journalists working on refugee issues faced hostility from local authorities in the Aegean islands.
Several media freedom groups have written to Greek authorities after local police arrested a group of journalists working for the German Climate Foundation on the Greek island of Samos last October.
The group, who were making a documentary about climate-induced migration, were denied access to a lawyer and strip-searched before being released without charge.
Pavol Szalai, head of RSF’s EU/Balkans desk, told Al Jazeera the NGO was concerned about the current situation in Greece.
“Freedom of the press in Greece has rapidly deteriorated.
“Right now, Greek journalists are struggling to scrutinize government policies and report on the handling of the pandemic or the refugee crisis.
“The recent brutal murder of crime journalist Giorgos Karaivaz has brought an additional layer of serious concern for investigative journalists. Frankly, the current situation is a dangerous cocktail for press freedom.