Media coverage in autumn 2002 of the dismantling of the "17 November" terrorist group that has murdered 23 prominent Greeks and foreigners since 1975 was criticised for going along with the government line and being used to encourage the public to denounce terrorists to police. After the press published all the legal statements made by those arrested, the national body for personal data protection called on the media to respect the privacy of those charged.
In November, the justice minister banned TV cameras from all trials, saying this was to conform to European Union laws. But journalists said this was aimed at preventing media coverage of the "17 November" group trials due to start in January 2003. Information minister Christos Protopapas drafted a proposed broadcasting code of conduct that journalists said was really to restrict their activities, not set standards.
Journalists physically attacked
About 30 supposed anarchists attacked TV journalists on 13 September 2002 as they were filming in front of the Athens home of Ioanas Kourtovic, a lawyer for two accused "17 November" group terrorists. They accused them of biased reporting of the breaking up of the group, beat them and threw their cameras on the ground.
Demonstrators marching on the US embassy in Athens on 26 September, damaged a vehicle of the privately-owned TV station Mega and slightly injured a journalist and two technicians. The equipment of several photographers and cameramen was destroyed. Slogans supporting the "17 November" group were daubed on walls.
A group of 20 helmeted people, thought to be anarchists, attacked the Athens offices of the daily paper Apogevmatini on 2 October, throwing petrol bombs and setting fire to vehicles. Nobody was hurt. The paper, whose owner Nikos Momfertos was murdered by the "17 November" group in 1985, strongly supported the breaking up of the group.
Pressure and obstruction
The national broadcasting council, ESR, fined the privately-owned TV station Extra Channel 146,735 euros on 4 April 2002 for insulting President Costis Stephanopoulos by saying on 31 January that his family had rented property to a businessman to turn into casinos. The report, during a political scandal about illegal casinos around the country and suggesting the president might resign, was deemed an affront to his authority. The ESR said the station had broadcast "false information and inappropriate language," used hidden cameras and had "confused" TV viewers.
The news programme of the privately-owned TV station Alter was censored by Prime Minister Kostas Simitis on 6 July for showing a picture of Savas Xiros, a suspected member of the "17 November" group injured when a bomb he was carrying exploded. Simitis said the photo was "offensive to the feelings of Greeks" and at his request, the ESR banned the news programme.
Three journalists of the privately-owned radio station Flash were ordered by an Athens court on 9 July to pay 58,694 euros to New Democracy Party member of parliament Aris Spiliotopoulos, who accused them of insulting him in a comedy programme. The court said they had taken advantage of party criticism of him to insult him.