An increase in libel suits and a persistence of taboo subjects makes Greek journalists censor themselves. The house of a TV reporter looking into the 17 November terrorist group was attacked.
Greek courts no longer send journalists to prison but the law on defamation still undermines press freedom, providing up to five years in jail for "insulting" people. Countless libel suits sometimes result in very heavy fines, make journalists censor themselves and also threaten to bankrupt media. Many topics remain taboo, including the issue of the Albanian, Macedonian-Slav and Turkish minorities, criticising religion and relations with Turkey.
A TV journalist was the target of a bomb attack in 2003 for which an anarchist faction claimed responsibility. The attack came amid controversy over media coverage, often seen as biased and pro-government, of the activities of the 17 November extremist group, which since 1975 has murdered several dozen Greek and foreign political figures. A trial of its leaders began in January.
Threats and attacks
Two people on a motorbike hurled a firebomb at the house in Athens of Anna Panayotarea, news producer at the privately-owned TV station Alpha, on 29 September 2003. It exploded in front of the door and caused some damage. Anti-terrorist police opened an enquiry. The journalist, who had received anonymous phone calls and felt for several weeks she was being followed, said the attack was linked with her investigation of the 17 November extremist group. A hitherto-unknown anarchist group, the Post-Midnight Raiders, claimed responsibility, as it had for earlier attacks on political figures.
Harassment and obstruction
Alexis Papachelas and Tassos Teloglou, of the daily paper To Vima, the privately-owned TV station Mega Channel and the public TV Net, were attacked by thugs on 18 January 2003 in an Athens bookshop where they were presenting a book they had written about the 17 November extremist group. About 20 masked individuals burst into the Estia bookshop, threw red paint and eggs and smashed a display window before fleeing.
Immigration officials told Gazmend Kapllani, of the daily Ta Nea, on 27 February that the law and order ministry had intervened in his application for a new residence permit. The journalist, an Albanian immigrant, had lived in Greece for 12 years and was a human rights activist. The ministry said he was "a danger to public order and a threat to national security" and threatened to deport him. All efforts to get the authorities to explain their view failed.
He was arrested on 15 March by two policemen, who presented no warrant, and taken to the foreigners’ prison in Athens before being released. He said his problems with the authorities were due to his articles regularly exposing police brutality and racism towards the Albanian community in Greece.
The Athens prosecutor’s office summoned Giorgos Kouris, publisher of the populist daily Avriani, on 23 April in connection with an article saying government spokesman Christos Protopapas had received money from the head of the Altec computer firm during his 1996 election campaign. The prosecutor asked him to provide all the information he had about the matter.
The Athens prosecutor’s office began legal action on 10 June against Despina Brousali, of the daily paper Vima, and Panayiotis Stathis, of Eleftherotypia, for obstructing justice. The journalists had published the statements of several alleged members of the 17 November group and refused to reveal their sources. By the end of the year, the legal validity of the action was still being considered.
The Piraeus appeal court ordered the daily paper Kathimerini on 3 September to pay
365,000 euros in libel damages to the Intracom telecommunications firm and its chief, Socratis Kokkalis, who has close ties to the country’s socialist government, and who had sought 6.6 million euros in March 2002 because of critical articles in 2001 by journalist Aristea Bougatsou. A lower court had said the articles were correct, balanced and of public interest. After an investigation based on the articles and on the accusations of a right-wing opposition member of parliament, a prosecutor had begun legal action against Kokkalis in 2002.