Progress in investigation into Greek reporter’s murder is not enough, says RSF
On the eve of parliamentary elections, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Greece’s authorities to step up efforts to identify and prosecute those behind crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz’s contract-style killing in 2021. The recent arrest of two brothers suspected of helping to carry out the hit does not suffice to compensate for the slowness of the investigation.
The 21 May elections to fill all of the Greek parliament’s 300 seats for the next four years are being held against a backdrop of political tension and outrage about governmental spying – whose targets included journalists – which has weakened Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
As highlighted in RSF’s latest Press Freedom Index, published on 3 May, Greece has the lowest ranking in the European Union. Since Mitsotakis became prime minister in July 2019, Greece has fallen 42 places, from 65th to 107th, eliciting angry reactions from politicians and attacks on RSF.
Was it with the aim of repairing the government’s image as a press freedom defender that citizen protection minister Takis Theodorikakos finally announced significant progress in the Karaivaz investigation less than a month ago?
“We welcome the progress in the Karaivaz murder investigation, but we have a right to question the Mitsotakis government’s political opportunism after taking nearly two years to make these arrests." “Regardless of the political context and the outcome of the parliamentary elections, the Greek authorities must pursue their efforts to identify all involved in this contract-style killing, especially the instigators, who must be brought to justice. The role of the two detained brothers must also be clarified. We call on the parliamentarians who are about to be elected to urgently address this matter.
A few days before the Theodorikakos announcement, two brothers of Greek nationality, aged 40 and 48, were arrested, questioned and then placed in detention on suspicion of participating in the murder of Karaivaz, who was gunned down in the street outside his Athens home on 9 April 2021.
RSF has seen a copy of a Greek police report based above all on analysis of surveillance camera footage in the neighbourhood where Karaivaz lived. It says at least three individuals, including the two detained brothers, had an active role in carrying out the Karaivaz killing. The hit squad consisted of two persons on a scooter accompanied by a white van with tinted windows belonging to a cleaning company run by one of the brothers and owned by his partner.
On the eve of the murder, the scooter and van were seen in the neighbourhood, where they were probably on a scouting operation. The police have established that the company had no reason to be there on either of these two days. They have also revealed that the two brothers had criminal records. One of them was implicated in another murder, that of the boxer Haris Kontogiorgis in 2021.
RSF points out that the police already had a list of suspects, statements, phone records and many CCTV camera recordings five months after the murder. In January and in early April, several local media outlets reported that the police had long had the information needed to carry out these arrests. Why did they wait nearly two years before acting?
The arrests constitute a significant advance in the investigation but are far from sufficient. The police report provides a series of pointers regarding the circumstances of the murder and crime scene, and confirms that it was premeditated and planned. But it has not clearly determined the chain of responsibility between the various actors.
To ensure that the investigation is independent and to provide additional expertise, RSF reiterates its call to the Greek authorities to request Europol’s assistance. With this European agency’s help, not only all of the hit squad’s members but also the instigators could be identified, arrested and brought to trial.
Greece is ranked 107th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.