Greece28 November 2008
“Nothing has been done since I was assaulted”
Makis Nodaros, a journalist on the daily Eleftherotypia, was brutally assaulted outside his home by two unknown assailants on 23 October 2008. The attack could be linked to his reports into the use and management of funds earmarked for reconstruction of regions devastated by fires in August 2007. The investigation to determine who carried out the attack and who ordered it has stalled. Reporters Without Borders interviewed him about the case.
Reporters Without Borders : What happened to you on 20 October 2008 ?
Makis Nodaros (MN) : It was a Thursday, around 11am. I had just finished the radio programme that I present on Ionian FM, and I was going home. I had just got out with all my files under my arm, my laptop and phone when a dark-skinned man came towards me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye emerge from the bushes bordering the entrance to my building, and he asked me if I was the journalist Makis Nodaros. At the same time, another man, with blond hair, appeared from another bush. As soon as I replied “yes”, the dark-skinned man started to hit me. I received several blows to the stomach and the head. I fell to the ground and he then began kicking me. I saw the other man stamp on my computer. I called out for help and some people came. My assailants then fled on a motorbike, taking my mobile phone with all my contacts and my papers. The attack lasted at the most five minutes.
Reporters Without Borders : What did you do afterwards ?
MN : I quickly went home to inform my newspaper Eleftherotypia. I had my mobile phone blocked. The police came and I then went to hospital where I was given first aid. I had injuries to my head, ribs, arms and legs. I had to wear a surgical collar for several days. I then went to the police station where I laid a formal complaint.
Reporters Without Borders : What do you think was the reason for this attack on you ?
MN : They didn’t want to kill me. If they had wanted to, they would have done. They wanted to give me a lesson, a warning and to take my papers.
Reporters Without Borders : Do you think this attack was connected to your work as a journalist ?
MN : No doubt about it. For some time now I have been regularly writing articles in the daily Eleftherotypia about misappropriation of funds by the city hall in Zacharo in the Peloponnese (the region worst hit by the August 2007 fires, in which more than 25 people died). The city hall wants to use, and has already started to do so, the funds destined for the disaster zones to renovate a part of their own buildings, but which have not been affected by the fires. My articles led to a halt to the works and an investigation has been opened. One week before I was attacked, Spiros Kioskai, the only survivor of the fire in the village of Artemida, came to see me to tell me that the claims that the Zacharo city hall had been hit by the fires that destroyed the village were false. Spiros Kioskai was with the family that was trapped by the fire and he did not see the mayor. Nobody saw him. I published his evidence. Our team also found out that illegal buildings had been put up in the region protected by the European programme Natura 2000.
Reporters Without Borders : Did you receive any threats ?
MN : No, but the mayor of Zacharo, Pantazis Chronopoulos, complained several times to the editor of Eleftherotypias, Vaggelis Panagopoulos. The editor always supported me but he did offer Pantazis Chronopoulos the right of reply in Eleftherotypia but the mayor never sent us anything. All this strengthens my belief that those who instigated the attack on me are likely close to city hall.
Reporters Without Borders : Did you expect such an attack ?
MN : I did not think they would react so violently.
Reporters Without Borders : Have you ever been attacked before ?
MN : Yes, just over six years ago. I was investigating corruption within the police. At the time I used to get about on a Vespa. Someone sabotaged it by removing the safety cable on the front wheel. I was riding along normally when I suddenly lost control of the bike and I ended up on the wrong side of the road. I laid a complaint but nothing came of it.
Reporters Without Borders : Will be investigation into the assault get anywhere ?
MN : I don’t know. Nobody has ever been arrested or questioned either at the time or today.
Reporters Without Borders : Do you think you are in danger ?
MN : I am not afraid for myself, but I do worry about my family. I have asked for a police patrol car to pass in front of my home every two hours but I have not seen anything yet.
Reporters Without Borders : Are journalists generally at risk in Greece ?
MN : Those who investigate certain issues are in danger. In October 2004, my colleague Philippos Sirigos, sports editor on Eleftherotypia, was assaulted by two unknown men riding a motorbike. They struck him on the head with an iron bar and stabbed him four times before fleeing. Philippos Sirigos was investigating a major drugs scandal in sport. Investigations opened into these cases should be sustained, and if possible, result in the arrest of those responsible. Otherwise there is a risk of leading those who are displeased by our articles to believe they can strike with impunity to silence us.
Reporters Without Borders : Is there really press freedom in Greece ?
MN : That’s a huge question. Yes, there is press freedom in Greece. The problem is the massive number of court actions launched against journalists. I am currently the subject of 14 proceedings either under way or pending. Some of them go back to the start of my work in 1990. I have the support of Eleftherotypia, but it is a major waste of time, all the more so because one does not appear before a criminal court but a civil one, which is twice as hard, without even considering the costs involved.
Athens : from our correspondent