Greece’s conservative government (EPP) lashed again against Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday, branding them “unreliable” after the publication of a report ranking Greece the worst EU country when it comes to media freedom for a second consecutive year.
According to the 2023 World Press Freedom Index published on Wednesday, the situation of press freedom in Greece has deteriorated as the Mediterranean country ranked 107th out of 180 countries worldwide.
This sparked a furious reaction from the government, who continued a pattern of lashing out against the international media freedom advocacy organisation. In 2022 when similarly displeased with the less-than-stellar ranking, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the rankings as “crap”.
On an EU level, Pavol Szalai, RSF Head of EU/Balkans Desk, told EURACTIV that the gap between Greece and the rest of the EU has widened (23 places away from the second to the last EU country – Malta, while in 2022, Greece was 17 places away – from Bulgaria).
RSF: ‘Press freedom’ gap between Greece and EU has widened
The situation of press freedom in Greece has deteriorated according to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, as the Mediterranean country ranked 107th out of 180 countries.
“Press freedom in Greece remains problematic”, Pavol Szalai, RSF Head of EU/Balkans Desk, …
The Greek ruling New Democracy party (EPP) reacted strongly to the report.
Its spokesman Akis Skertsos referred to an “apparent lack of elemental reliability in the evaluation criteria”.
“According to RSF, press freedom flourishes in military and authoritarian regimes or in countries torn by civil wars, such as Burkina Faso, which is ranked 58th in this year’s press freedom ranking, Guinea, which is at 85, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau at 74 and 78 respectively”, Skertsos said in a statement.
“On the contrary, according to the same organisation, the press ‘suffers’ in European democracies that have deep-rooted respect for the freedom and independence of journalists, such as Greece, which it ranks in 107th place!!!”, he added.
In Brussels, though, RSF is considered an importance source of information even for EU institutions, such as the European Commission, which uses data to draft reports related to the rule of law in EU countries.
Journalist wins major SLAPP case
Another problem in Greece’s media landscape is the growing number of the so-called SLAPPs, strategic lawsuits against investigative journalists who criticise the government.
Kostas Vaxevanis is a Greek investigative journalist who has been sued by current government ministers and even threatened him in public – in the parliament – to put him in jail.
In his career, he has so far faced more than 100 trials for his reporting and has been found innocent in all of them.
Earlier this week, he won a major court case due to a report which led to his arrest.
Particularly, Vaxevanis was arrested and accused of defamation after he reported that in 2017, the health ministry (through the national public health organisation) awarded a direct contract without a tender to a company belonging to the wife of Greece’s central bank chief to organise a health event.
Vaxevanis won this case and the court said he is innocent considering that his reporting was fact-based.
Kostas Vaxevanis has so far faced more than 100 trials for his reporting and has been found innocent in all of them. [EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU]
In an opinion piece, Documento journal which Vaxevanis owns, reported that this court case is just one proof of Greece’s 107th position in press freedom.
The news of his arrest after he was sued went viral in Greek mainstream media, while the court ruling proving him innocent was just reported by some leftist media and was completely ignored by mainstream media.
The surveillance of journalists by Greek secret services and illegal Predator spyware is yet another issue for the country’s media sector and government.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)
Read more with EURACTIV
Bulgaria to lift ban on Ukrainian imports