36 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 131,625 sq. km.
Head of state: Karolos Papoulias, since 2005
The repercussions of demonstrations that shook Greece these last few months were not only political and financial. The press, which is seen by some as a symbol of the established order and the political establishment, became an open and chosen target of a section of the militants. Home-made explosives made out of gas canisters have been used against several media and several journalists received regular death threats. So far no-one has been hurt in the attacks, often claimed by anarchists or extreme leftists. But they have had the effect of fostering self-censorship in some editorial offices and forced some foreign correspondents to take greater security precautions.
January and February 2009 saw a wave of bombings that escalated further after the death of a young man who was killed by police during a demonstration. The press was not spared. Home-made bombs exploded outside the offices of the dailies Ta Nea, and Avrinani in Salonika on 11 February but there were no injuries. A group of hooded and helmeted militants opened fire on the offices of privately owned television Alter on 17 February also using a home-made bomb that failed to detonate. The attackers calling themselves the “Revolutionary Sect” claimed responsibility for the attack in a message sent to the press on 21 February, threatening journalists with an unambiguous conclusion: “Journalists, this time we came to your door, next time you will find us inside”.
Foreign correspondents were amazed and slightly fearful to find working conditions unworthy of a European capital. Regularly attacked during demonstrations, journalists frequently had their equipment vandalised. Two correspondents for France Inter and the correspondent for French newspaper La Croix in Athens were brutally assaulted in mid-December 2008. A film crew from Russian channel NTV suffered a similar fate and only just managed to rescue their equipment. The English-language media were first in line for attack, seen by the anarchists as the conveyors of a capitalism that needs to be “got rid of” and subjected to the most specific threats. Some of them took security precautions but refused to talk about it or have their names mentioned for fear of reprisal.
Violence against the press is not however limited to coverage of social unrest. Makis Nodaros, a journalist on the daily Eleftherotypia was assaulted by two unknown assailants in October 2008, in an attack that could be linked to his reporting on controversial and fraudulent use of payments intended for the reconstruction of regions wrecked by the huge fires of August 2007.
Finally, the trial of three members of Reporters Without Borders who disrupted the Olympic flame ceremony in Olympia on 24 March 2008 has been postponed sine die.