The Greek coalition government was accused of being authoritarian and attempting to intimidate the press, following the arrest of three journalists over the weekend.
The publisher of “Fileleftheros” newspaper, along with the editor-in-chief and the chief political editor were detained by police after Defense Minister Panos Kammenos filed a lawsuit against them.
The legal action came in response to a report in the newspaper claiming EU funds aimed to help Greece cope with the refugee crisis were being misused. Kammenos denied having any involvement in the management of funds destined to help alleviate the refugee crisis.
Kammenos, who also leads the ruling Independent Greeks party, also took legal action against four more “Fileleftheros” journalists who reported on the situation in Moria, on the island of Lesvos, were thousands of refugees and migrants are currently staying in a camp.
The detained journalists voluntarily appeared before police on Saturday once they were informed about the legal action. Following their release on Sunday, an Athens prosecutor launched an investigation into the affair.
Justice Ministry sources suggest the government plans to amend laws providing for immediate arrest warrants issued when lawsuits for libel are filed.
Political parties and journalist union ESIEA reacted strongly to the detainment of journalists.
“If someone believes that the publication of an article slurs an individual or that the article is incorrect, they can ask for their opinion to be published, so that their honor and reputation is restored,” the union said. It also called for the law to be amended so that press freedom is safeguarded and journalist arrests are avoided in future.
Main opposition New Democracy said the government showed its authoritarian face. Socialist Movement for Change commented that political life must not be criminalized.
“Fileleftheros” publisher Thanasis Mavridis slammed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, as well as the ministers of Defense and Digital Policy, commenting that the incident will “haunt them for years”. Editor-in-chief Panagiotis Lampsias pointed out that “there is an issue with democracy when politicians in power believe that they can bring accusations against journalists whom they do not like.”
Moria, set up in 2015, has frequently made headlines in the international press as aid groups described the crowded camp as overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous. According to the Associated Press, the Ministry of Migration Policy said it planned to move 2,000 asylum seekers in the camp to other locations…. / IBNA