As the government tries to stifle criticism, and with much of the media aligned with political parties and downplaying scandals, the NGO Journalists without Frontiers’ Freedom of Press Index shows Greece has fallen to 84th in the world, and had the sharpest fall among European countries and even behind some African dictatorships.
Greece was ranked 70th last year, before the government swiftly prosecuted journalist Costas Vaxevanis for publishing the names of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts that hadn’t been checked for tax evasion. He was easily acquitted but the government, unsatisfied with the verdict, is going to prosecute him again and yet hasn’t brought a single major tax evader to trial.
The report uses criteria such as pluralism, violence against journalists and conflict of interest. The report indicates that Media and journalists in democracies work better and enjoy much larger freedom. Nevertheless, the situation in the E.U. shows that certain countries have restricted their access to information since last year.
Yiannis Pretederis, chief editor of the TV station MEGA accidentally revealed in a recent interview that the news and the comments he and the other commentators made were dictated by someone else. Another Greek leading journalist, Paschos Mandravelis, a fierce supporter of the bail-out and the austerity reforms, was revealed to have been married to the personal assistance of former Minister of Finance, George Papaconstantinou, who is being prosecuted after it was found the names of three of his relatives were removed from a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts that hadn’t been checked for tax evasion.
Greek media often do not reveal their conflicts of interest with their business interests being hidden, but are being exposed more and more by independent journalists using their own blogs and web sites to reveal them. Without real press freedom, citizens are turning themselves into journalists. Their videos have shown, for example, alleged police brutality against 15 anti-fascists the Greek media didn’t report on.