The head of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) permanent representation in Greece reacted to a news story published by the Athens-based daily To Vima by summoning the journalist to his office and demanding to know how the journalist had obtained the IMF report used to write his article. When the reporter, Zois Tsolis, refused to reveal his sources, Bob Traa, the Head of the IMF in Greece, warned that To Vima would be denied information in the future and that the IMF would collaborate with other media.
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the international Press Institute (IPI), expresses concern at the reaction of the IMF representative – which appears to be a violation of press freedom.
On 24 June 2012, Tsolis published an exclusive report, including figures, on how many civil servants were hired by some ministries in 2010 and 2012, despite contrary recommendations in the memorandum of understanding that Greece agreed with the the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Tsolis stated that 70,000 civil servants were hired.
When Tsolis continued to refuse to provide the information, Traa, as quoted by Tsolis in an article published on 1 July 2012 said: “We will not speak again to To Vima. We thought that you are the official newspaper of Pasok [ Panhellenic Socialist Movement]). We have other newspapers that write our data precisely.” The IMF did not deny the report obtained by To Vima.
“Multilateral organisations cannot threaten journalists by denying them access to information and demanding the revelation of their sources,” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “The Greek people have to know what is happening in their country, especially at a time of crisis. I hope this will remain an isolated incident and that the IMF representatives will fully respect freedom of expression.