Press freedom in Greece suffered serious setbacks in 2021 and 2022, with journalists regularly prevented from covering issues from migration to Covid-19. Further, the assassination of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in April 2021 remains unsolved despite the government’s promise of a quick investigation.
Greeks’ trust in the media has been consistently one of the lowest in Europe. A few large private groups like Skai coexist alongside hundreds of online media outlets, which contributes to a high fragmentation of the media landscape. The overwhelming majority of media is owned by a few individuals who are active also in other, highly-regulated business sectors. Moreover, some of them have close ties to the political elite. The press is thus very politically polarized.
The government spokesman is responsible for overseeing the public media, which has undermined its editorial independence. The broadcast regulator NCRTV has been accused of slow and inefficient decision-making, but current and former governments have failed to significantly overhaul the way it operates.
Recent amendments to the criminal code–passed under the pretext of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic–allow for a disproportionate restriction of press freedom on shaky legal grounds. Making the offense of spreading false information punishable by five years of imprisonment goes against Greece's international commitments and European legal standards, represents a serious threat to journalists’ right to publish information in the public interest, and increases the risk of self-censorship.
The financial crisis of the last decade coupled with low readership figures and decreasing advertising budgets has put the long-term survival of many media outlets in question. This made them more dependent on public funding. However, the allocation process for these funds has lacked transparency and seemingly favoured pro-government outlets. A parliamentary inquiry commission has investigated the criteria according to which millions of euros were given to media organizations for a series of state advertising campaigns, including the government’s Covid awareness campaign.
Extreme left and extreme right activists regularly attack the premises of the media they consider as ideological enemies. In addition, female journalists are frequently faced with sexism in the workplace.
The police regularly resort to violence and arbitrary bans to hamper journalistic coverage of demonstrations and the refugee crisis on the islands. A Dutch journalist had to leave the country for her own security after she was attacked in the street following a smear campaign by the pro-government media over her heated exchange with the prime minister about migrant pushbacks. Furthermore, despite their pledges of a fast probe, the authorities have so far failed to resolve the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was gunned down outside his Athens home in broad daylight.