The International Federation of Journalists and its regional organisation the European Federation of Journalists today condemned the authorities over a “targeted political” attack on an independent newspaper in Greece.
On 26 October, Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos filed charges against three journalists from a new daily newspaper, Presstime, following an article published on 17 October which criticized the Minister over irregular political activities.
“This has all the hallmarks of a targeted attack on journalism for ruthless political motives,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “If this assault is successful it will be an act of intimidation of independent journalism unlike anything else seen in Western Europe in recent years”.
Spiliotopoulos is demanding the arrest of the three journalists and fines of up to 2.5 million euros in compensation. The prosecution also aims to freeze the assets of Presstime which would result in the effective closure of the paper.
In a court hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning, the three journalists – Pavlos Dimitriades, the editor of Presstime, Parvis Karvounidis, the author of the article, and third journalist Patroclos Zois – will appeal the charges and if the newspaper is prosecuted, it would be obliged to shut down.
The IFJ is backing its affiliate in Greece, the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers, of which both Dimitriades and Karvounidis are members, in their calls for the charges to be dropped immediately.
Spilios Spiliotopoulos has come under heavy media scrutiny surrounding negotiations he conducted involving the purchase of 40 F16 aircrafts from the United States and for which he announced a much lower price than that which was later released by the US.
“There are a number of severely disturbing issues at stake here,” said White. “One of them is that there is an attempt to manipulate and force the judiciary to act which demonstrates clears political self-interest.” “A government endangers democracy when its leading representatives act in this way”.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries