Greece - 2014 Media Report

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, has a new government since January 2015, when the left-wing party Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament. This is the first time since the end of the dictatorial government that the country has been ruled by a party other than Pasok or New Democracy. The new Prime Minister is Alexis Tsipras, who was also member of the Communist Youth of Greece.

A significant number of the Media discontinued operation in Greece during the last five years, and many hundreds of journalists remain unemployed. The redundancies in the last three years exceeded 5000 workers, who are mostly journalists, not counting employees in public broadcasting outlet (ERT) that has been inactive for 20 months. Well-known print media that stopped publishing between 2010 and 2014 are:

1. Daily nationwide newspapers
To Vima (has kept the Sunday edition only),
Adesmeftos Typos
6 imeres

2. Weekly nationwide newspapers

3. Weekly magazines due to bankruptcy of the publishing groups Publications Liberi Editions, Kostopoulos (IMAKO)

4. Daily sports newspapers
Sport Time
Kitrinomari Ora

5. Daily business/economic newspapers

6. Private TV Alter, 902 (property of the Communist Party KKE)

7. Radio stations Flash 961 FM, 902 FM (property of the Communist Party KKE)

8. In Thessaloniki the Ageliaforos newspaper has closed, owned by the family of the wife of former Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evangelos Venizelos.

According to observers, the biggest influence on the Greek media market in 2014 was still the closing of public broadcaster ERT (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) by the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on 11 June 2013. ERT had three analog TV channels, a satellite TV channel and five digital radio frequencies and 17 regional radio stations. The state created a new public broadcaster NERIT, but with no success. NERIT was run by the Ministry of Finances, and according to observers, had no editorial independence.

In September 2014, President and Deputy Managing Consultant of NERIT Antonis Makrydimitris resigned, as well as board member Rodolphos Moronis. In October 2014, Deputy Chairman of NERIT Andreas Zoulas submitted his resignation just days after the resignation of author Christos Homenidis, another member of the NERIT board.

The new government and the SYRIZA party has pledged to reopen the ERT and rehire the workers, many of whom were forced into early retirement. In early 2015, representatives from the former ERT met with the Minister of State Nikos Pappason to discuss the reopening of the former public broadcasting service.

According to available data:
- Since 2008 there are no collective agreements
- Wages of authors have declined by 30-60 per cent
- Very often wages are overdue for six months

In April 2014, the National Council for Radio and Television (ESR) issued guidelines for media outlets covering campaigns during upcoming elections.

Different media and journalist associations are active in Greece, including:
-Athenian Daily Newspapers Publishers Association, established under law number 1798/28.4.51. The founders and the first permanent members of the association were the publishers of the Athenian Daily Newspapers of the time: Acropolis, To Vima, I Vradyni, Ethnikos Kiryx, Eleftheria, Ebros, Estia, I Kathimerini, Ta Nea, and O Proodeftikos Fileleftheros, who were respectively: Mr. Nasos Botsis, Ms. Nina Aravantinou, Mr. Athanasios Paraschos, Mr. Konstantinos Nikopoulos, Mr. Panos Kokkas, Mr. Alkiviadis Kalapothakis, Mr. Kyros A. Kyrou, Ms. Eleni Vlachou-Loundra, Mr. Dimitrios Labrakis and Mr. Nikolaos Evangelopoulos.
- Foreign Journalists Association of Greece (FJA), founded in 2005. The total number of the Association's members is approximately 120. These include 30 Active Members, who are foreign journalists living permanently in Greece, and representing 87 foreign media from 26 countries. The rest are Associate Members, namely, employees of the foreign press, communications and public relations.
- Association of European Journalists - Greek Section
- POESY - Panhellenic Federation of Journalists Union
- Journalists Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (J.U.A.D.N. - ESIEA)
- Journalists Union of Macedonian and Thracian Daily Press

Advertising market, according to it was forecast that radio advertising spending would reach 32 million EUR in 2015, down from 56 million EUR in 2010. It was forecast that magazine advertising spending would reach 48 million EUR in 2014, down from 90 million EUR in 2010. It was forecast that newspaper advertising spending would reach 50 million EUR in 2014, down from 90 million EUR in 2010. It was forecast that outdoor advertising spending would reach 22 million EUR in 2015, up from 17 million EUR in 2013. It was forecast that television advertising spending would reach 266 million EUR in 2015, down from 333 million EUR in 2011.

In February 2014, a first instance court decided to ban the broadcast of a television documentary on Mega Channel about the Farmakonisi case, a tragedy that took place when 12 migrants drowned off the coast of Farmakonisi in January 2014. The film was made by investigative journalist Stavros Theodorakis. According to judge, the broadcast of the documentary would interfere with the ongoing judicial investigation and violated the principle of privacy. After this court decision, Mega Channel announced that the documentary would be edited and broadcast. Later the Syrian captain was found guilty, and the court imposed a prison sentences of 145 years and three months. However, he will serve 25 years, the maximum according to Greek legislation. He has also to pay a 570,500 EUR fine.

In April 2014, Greek police arrested Despina Kontaraki, a journalist with one of the country’s leading dailies, Eleftheros Typos, and detained her for several hours after she was accused of criminal libel. The accusation was levelled against Kontaraki, publisher Aleksis Skanavis and journalist Giorgos Kouvaras after Eleftheros Typos published an article in which a politician was accused of supporting members of the far-right Golden Dawn party.

“This case shows the power of a politician in Greece to silence journalists,” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, commented. SEEMO was alarmed by the steps taken by the Greek police, and urged the authorities in Athens to guarantee free work for journalists.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was deeply concerned to hear about the negative developments regarding media freedom in Greece in November. The headquarters of weekly Athens Voice, was targeted by an arson attack on 6 November 2014. Apparently, the office was broken into, doused with flammable liquids and set on fire. No one was injured in the fire that occurred in the city centre. Following these events, a Greek anarchist group issued a statement in which they took full responsibility for the crime. The group, named Black Sundays-Red Nights Anarchist Group of Anti-Capitalist Action, stated that they set the fire to call attention to the long working hours, small wages, self-censorship and overall difficult situation employees of such media outlets face.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn about developments in Greece on 14 December. An event was held in the Journalists Union in Athens with the presence of government officials. Outside the building, a group of unemployed journalists were protesting, before being violently removed by Greek riot police members. One of the journalists present was allegedly hit by riot police members. “The freedoms of speech and assembly cannot be dismissed by police or any other state institution,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.