Journalists Hail “Victory for Editorial Independence” as Greek Judges Back Strikers

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed a landmark decision by an appeal court in Greece that has confirmed a verdict against a publisher in Thessaloniki who victimised a journalist when he protested over internal censorship regarding coverage of the war in Iraq.

“This is a major victory for editorial independence and social justice,” said Arne Konig, Chairman of the European Federation of Journalists, the regional group of the IFJ. “It should act as a warning to others that try to intervene in the work of journalists.”

The Thessaloniki Court of Appeals has confirmed an original decision of the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance, which ruled in favour of staff members of the newspaper Makedonia who went on a 24-hour strike protesting over the dismissal of journalist Haralambos Bikas who was fired on unclear grounds after he returned from the war in Iraq. It later emerged that he was sacked because he condemned management interference over reporting of the Iraq conflict.

The Court of First Instance ruled in favour of the Editors Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH), by confirming the right to strike and dismissing the complaint filed against ESIEMTH by the publisher of Macedonia.

The employer took the case to appeal to try to reverse the decision, but this week judges confirmed the earlier court ruling:

  • That an internal solidarity strike calling for the reinstatement of an employee is an entrenched and legitimate right exercised for the collective good and which lies at the heart of unionism and workers’ solidarity.

  • That journalist Haralambos Bikas had been fired for reasons of vindictiveness when he protested against the censorship exercised by the newspaper’s manager, a tactic that the Greek union said violated the code of journalism ethics.

    “This decision finally vindicates the industrial action taken by our colleagues and it underpins the fundamental rights of journalists to act in solidarity,” said Konig.

    Dimitrios Gousides, President of the Journalists Union of Macedonia and Thrace, said that the court ruling No 1976/2004 provided important safeguards for journalists. “It constitutes an international landmark in the course of journalism and justice,” he said.

    The court appeal was also supported by the Confederation of Journalists’ Unions in Greece (POESY), which brings together regional journalists’ unions, all of them affiliated to the IFJ.

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    The EFJ represents over 200,000 journalists in more than 40 countries