Press freedom in Greece suffered severe setbacks between 2021 and 2023, including with a wiretapping scandal that revealed the National Intelligence Service (EYP) was spying on several journalists. Furthermore, SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) are commonplace, and, even more troubling, the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaïvaz in 2021 has not yet been solved.
The population’s trust in the media has been one of the lowest in Europe for many years. A few large private groups like Alter Ego Media coexist alongside hundreds of online media outlets, which contributes to a high fragmentation of the media landscape. Similarly, a few entrepreneurs run an overwhelming majority of media outlets, while being involved in other highly regulated business sectors. Some of them have close ties to the country’s political elite. As a result, the press is very polarised.
The government spokesman is responsible for overseeing the public media, putting the latter’s editorial independence at risk. The broadcast regulator, National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV), accused of being slow and inefficient, has not been significantly overhauled by the current government or the previous one. Overseen by the prime minister, the National Intelligence Service (EYP) was involved in the surveillance of journalists, many of whom were targeted by the Predator spyware.
Despite constitutional guarantees, press freedom has been challenged on the legislative level. New legislation passed by parliament, meant to provide citizens with better protection against arbitrary surveillance, in response to the “Predatorgate” wiretapping scandal, fall short of European standards. A new media bill established a controversial ethics committee. However, earlier amendments to the criminal code that allowed for a disproportionate restriction of press freedom on dubious legal grounds were eventually repealed.
The financial crisis of the last decade, combined with declining readership and advertising budgets, has called into question the long-term survival of many media outlets. The impact of the new legislation aimed at increasing transparency of media ownership and funding remains to be seen.
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. Police filed criminal charges against a prominent photojournalist arrested while covering a police operation in Athens. Another journalist who was a victim of unjustified police violence, only won his case in court after 12 years. Despite arrests made in April 2023, the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaïvaz, who was gunned down outside his Athens home in broad daylight in 2021, is yet to be resolved. However, concrete solutions are expected from a working group on the protection of journalists.