Continuing a crackdown on journalists revealing embarrassing information or questioning its policies, the Greek government arrested a television journalist after midnight on Oct. 31 after he threatened to expose more damaging allegations about the country’s economy as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was frantically trying to ready a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike plan aimed squarely at workers, pensioners and the poor.
Spiros Karatzaferis – brother of George Karatzaferis, leader of the right-wing LAOS party that briefly served in a temporary government earlier this year before failing to win enough votes in the June 17 election to enter Parliament – was taken into custody not long after he appeared on ART TV, a local station in Arta, western Greece.
He said he had information from the hackers group Anonymous, who electronically broke into the country’s general accountancy computer system and said they had classified documents, including e-mail exchanges between government officials and the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is putting up $325 billion in two bailouts but has demanded harsh austerity measures in return.
Karatzaferis said that he has facts about the Greek deficit that “forced” Greece to seek bailouts, which prove it was a fraud. He said he would present it on his show later that night on Oct. 31 but was apprehended before he could.
Karatzaferis said he was arrested not for possessing the information but that the government had dragged out an old warrant on an unrelated case in which he had accused judges of trying to form a para-state outside the government. “I am being condemned for libel,” he said, and added that he would prefer to go to jail than pay any fines.
His arrest came just a couple of days after investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis was taken into custody and charged with violating the country’s privacy laws by publishing on his web site a list of 2,059 Greeks with secret accounts in a Swiss bank who had not been vetted for possible tax evasion. Two former finance ministers and two former financial crimes squad prosecutors had the list and none acted on it.
Vaxevanis said the Samaras government is trying to silence critics while protecting politicians and the country’s rich elite who he said rule the country and are forcing harsh measures on people while insulating themselves from sacrifice.He is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 1, an unprecedented rapid prosecution, while tax evaders who owe the country $70 billion and who are arrested sometimes don’t have to face a court for up to 10 years.
On Oct. 30, the state-run NET TV, which is funded with mandatory deductions from citizens paychecks, yanked a TV show off the air after its two presenters questioned whether the country’s Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias should resign after they said medical reports proved the government was lying when it said that anti-government protesters who were arrested were not beaten and tortured as they had alleged. They, too, said the Samaras government was trying to muzzle the press and censor freedom of speech.