The International Federation of Journalists and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists, today called on regulators in Greece to lift a closure order on a radio station in Athens which local journalists say is a victim of “extreme censorship.”
The station Best 92.6 was shut down by the Greek National Broadcasting Council this week following a row over a satirical programme broadcast in August. This is apparently the first time that the council has used its powers to close a station.
The council, an independent body whose members are appointed by the political groups in the Greek Parliament, says the closure is in response to complaints about a satirical programme which targeted leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, an organisation embroiled in controversy after recent scandals that have been extensively reported in Greek media.
“This is a shocking development that sends a worrying message about the state of free expression in Greece,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We fully support our colleagues in Athens who are challenging this punitive action and are demanding that the station be re-opened.”
The Journalists Union of Athens Daily Newspapers, an IFJ affiliate, yesterday issued a statement denouncing the broadcasting council decision as “the practice of extreme censorship.” The Union says the order by the broadcasting council is punitive and is in marked contrast to other broadcasting council decisions in previous cases where there have been serious violations of the law, including ethical misdemeanours and even a failure to pay staff their wages.
The IFJ says that the broadcasting council needs to think again. “The consequences of this decision are serious for free expression and for all media outlets in Greece. The council should rescind the decision,” said Aidan White. “This station has operated in the Athens area for ten years and for it to be shut down like this will sound an alarm bell throughout Greek media. Journalists around Europe will be equally concerned.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries