Increasingly frequent violence against media in Greece must not go unpunished
After this month’s anarchist-claimed attack with explosives on Real media group premises in Athens, which follows a number of similar attacks in the past years in Greece, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Greek authorities to speed up investigations into violence against journalists and media, and to adopt new protective measures.
The attack on a building in a northern Athens suburb that houses Real FM news radio and the weekly RealNews was claimed on 20 July by an anarchist group calling itself “Thousands of Night Suns.” Accusing Real of “supporting the propaganda of the [Greek] politicians,” the group dedicated its action to two anarchist activists, one of whom is on hunger strike and the other died two years ago.
No one was injured when the group exploded three gas bottles inside the building in the early hours of 13 July but a sound engineer had to be taken to hospital with smoke inhalation. It was the latest of 11 attacks in the past three years against Greek media and journalists accused by the perpetrators of spreading government propaganda.
“We express our solidarity with the journalists of the Real group which is a platform of pluralism of opinions in a highly polarised Greek media landscape,” said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “And, concerned about the growing frequency of violence against the media in Greece, we call on the authorities to do what is necessary to ensure the success of the investigations into these attacks and to strengthen measures to protect journalists.”
The government must speed implementation of the interministerial memo on journalists’ safety signed on 7 June, as requested by the European Commission in its 13 July report on the rule of law in Greece. At the same time, the authorities must also implement the European Commission’s September 2021 recommendations.
Most attacks on press freedom currently remain unpunished. Reacting to the explosions at the Real premises, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “the state will do everything to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice” and that every attempt to target journalists “must be condemned.”
Asked by RSF about the attacks against journalists since July 2019, Greek police chief Konstantinos Skoumas said, “investigations shall be continued uninterruptedly until all cases are resolved, regardless the time is needed.” He also pledged to ensure “the continuing protection of journalists and media facilities,” saying he had assigned 345 police officers to these duties.
However, the police chief provided no detail about the specific protection assignments carried out by the police and did not respond to RSF’s question about the progress of the various investigations.
11 attacks in three years
Greece has a history of attacks by extremists groups since 1974. Over the past three years, RSF has registered a total of 11 attacks mainly targeting media premises and with a similar modus operandi – premises attacked by night, with no victims. Homes of journalists were also attacked in 2021:
- 13 July 2022: Latest attack so far, an explosion at the premises of RealNews and Real FM claimed by the anarchist group Thousands of Night Suns.
- 14 June 2022: An improvised explosive device causes major damage to the apartment building of SKAI TV journalist Artis Portosalte.
- 1 February 2022: An explosion damages the door to the home of SKAI TV journalist Yannis Kampourakis.
- 30 June 2021: An explosive object is set off outside the home of To Vima journalist Yannis Pretenteris.
- 22 February 2021: The premises of the sports TV channel Action 24 are ransacked. A person is arrested by the police.
- 10 February 2021: An improvised bomb explodes at the entrance to the headquarters of the newspapers Dimokratia, Espresso and Estia.
- 4 October 2020: The premises of the Proto Thema newspaper are vandalised. The anarchist group “Solidarity Initiative” claims the attack, which follows the arrest of the anarchist activist Polykarpos Georgiadis.
- 18 April 2020: Three individuals throw Molotov cocktails at SKAI TV headquarters.
- 10 March 2020: An unidentified group ransacks the premises of the public radio station ERT3.
- 16 January 2020: Around 30 members of the anarchist group “Rouvikonas” inflict damage and throw red paint at the offices of the newspapers Dimokratia and Espresso.
- 4 July 2019: Fifteen members of the anarchist group “Rouvikonas” ransack the premises of the Athens Voice newspaper in response to a comment posted on its website deemed to have mocked Armenian migrant Gayane Kassardjian’s death while trying to flee the police.
Attacks of this kind are not the only form of violence to which journalists in Greece are exposed. Journalists from media of very different editorial tendencies have been targeted by organised crime. Star TV crime specialist Giorgos Karaivaz was gunned down outside his home in April 2021, in a murder for which no one has yet been arrested despite RSF’s repeated calls for a faster investigation. A contract was reportedly put on the head of Kostas Vaxevanis, the editor of the newspaper Documento, the same month. Stefanos Chios, the editor of the tabloid newspaper Makelio, was injured by shots fired at his car in 2020. Attacks by demonstrators and police violence targeting reporters covering protests complete this grim picture.
Greece is ranked 108th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest position of any EU member.