Greece: Public TV Journalists Fired After Criticizing Minister

On October 29, 2012, two journalists, Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi, were fired by the Greek Public Television (ERT) after analyzing claims by British newspaper The Guardian of police torture of Greek anti-fascist protesters in Athens, and criticizing the Greek Minister of Public Order.

Here is the excerpt [el] from their morning television broadcast:

Kostas Arvanitis himself explained the reason for their removal in his blog [el]:

M. Katsimi: And here are the forensic findings for the 15 arrested people that The Guardian was writing about. For this case [Minister of Public Order] Mr. Dendias wanted to sue The Guardian
Mr. Arvanitis: Didn’t he?
M. Katsimi: He didn’t, because the findings show that it is indeed a felony.
Mr. Arvanitis: Is he going to resign now?
M. Katsimi: I do not think so. […]
Mr. Arvanitis: And now what? Will he say he is sorry?
M. Katsimi: I do not know ….
Mr. Arvanitis: Wow… that’s difficult for Mr. Dendias. And he is from the same place as you, from Corfu.
M. Katsimi: And he is a serious man, I have to say.

Minutes later, he tweeted [el] the news of their removal:

@karvanitis: τελικά μας έκοψε ο κος Λιάτσος …

@karvanitis: Apparently, Mr. Liatsos cut us off…

It's worth mentioning that ERT's recently appointed Director, Aimilios Liatsos, didn't contact the two journalists first to get information; instead they learnt about their removal from their Head Editor, as Marilena Katsimi stated to news website [el].

In a public statement [el], Aimilios Liatsos accused Mr. Arvanitis and Ms. Katsimi of infringing journalism's Code of Ethics and defended their dismissal:

The General Directorate of ERT fully respects the rules of Free Press; it's proven in daily practice by presenting all views. However, it can not tolerate the violation of the basic standards of journalistic ethics.

The presenters of the daily magazine “Morning Information” on NET, Mr. Kostas Arvanitis and Ms. Marilena Katsimi, made unacceptable insinuations against the Minister of Public Order, Nikos Dendias, without even giving him the right to express himself, while it seemed that they commented on the case, prejudging the outcome of the judicial decision.

Mr. Dendias had announced in parliament his intention to sue The Guardian newspaper, as user Dimitris Bounias tweeted:

@DimitrisBounias: Greek media report #Dendias in parliament: “I will sue Guardian on behalf of the Greek state for defamation of our democracy”.

TVXS (TV Without Borders) website reported that [el] the journalists’ removal has become a political issue, as it started fueling intergovernmental dispute.

Social media reactions

On Facebook, many users are expressing their support to the two journalists through the TV show's Facebook page:

Margarita Zontou: Και οι μάσκες πέφτουν…

And the masks fall…

Kosmas Tseligaridis: Ντροπή και αίσχος στους αυλοκόλακες της κρατικής τηλεόρασης. Η λογοκρισία δε θα περάσει.

Shame and disgrace to the “courtisan flatterers” of State Television. Censorship will not pass.

Twitter users are expressing their disdain using the hashtag #Dendias, requesting, amongst other things, that Dendias should quit.

@monahus: Δένδια παραιτήσου #dendias

@monahus: Mr. Dendias, quit #dendias

@blacktom1961: Αντί να παραιτηθεί ο χυδαίος και προφανώς κρετίνος #Dendias, που εκτέθηκε μόνος του σαν τον τελευταίο ηλίθιο του πλανήτη, φιμώνει κριτικές.

@blacktom1961: Instead of resigning, as he exposed himself like the last idiot on the planet, scoundrel and obviously cretin #Dendias silences criticisms

User Rogiros compared [el] ERT's Director, Aimilios Liatsos, to Italian President Silvio Berlusconi:

@rogampf: Ούτε ο Berlusconi δε θα τολμούσε να κάνει τέτοιο πράγμα στη RAI σαν κι αυτό που έκανε ο Λιάτσος στην ΕΡΤ. #Dendias #Arvanitis #Liatsos #ERT

@rogampf: Not even Berlusconi would dare to do such a thing to RAI [the Italian public service broadcaster] like the one made by Liatsos in ERT. #Dendias #Arvanitis #Liatsos #ERT

Political parties and organizations have condemned ERT's action, while journalists at ERT/NET will launch 24-hour rolling strikes as of October 30, until the decision on Arvanitis/Katsimi is withdrawn.

Censorship hurricane

Other censorship examples have emerged recently. On September 25, a 27-year-old netizen was sent to trial after his arrest over blasphemy charges that he was maintaining a Facebook page entitled “Gerontas Pastitsios” (Elder Pastitsios), including satirical comments against Christianity and the religious figure Elder Paisios and his alleged “prophecies”.

On October 11, religious groups and neo-nazis protested against gay-themed play ‘Corpus Christi’ in Athens, deeming it blasphemous; they assaulted a theater critic and forced the cancellation of the performance.

On October 16, Greek public TV channel NET censored a gay kiss scene from the BBC TV series ‘Downton Abbey’. “The irony of the issue is that newly appointed director of ERT/NET TV is the former director of a private channel that constantly shows Myconos wild parties and naked women butts during summer”, Keep Talking Greece mentions.

The latest case of the two journalists comes only a day after the arrest of journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, whose magazine HOT DOC published a leaked list of over 2,000 names of Greeks with bank accounts in Switzerland.


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