Killing the Messenger: Official Greek Government Policy
by Stephen Lendman
Greece reflects failed state governance. It’s the epicenter of banker occupation. Neoliberal priorities alone matter. It’s economy was ravaged and destroyed. Unemployment tops 27%. Youth unemployment exceeds 60%.
An entire new generation is being systematically destroyed. Millions of working Greeks don’t earn enough to live on. It’s zombie banks are black holes of insolvency. It’s dysfunctional economy awaits its obituary to be written.
Its government betrays its own people. It bears full responsibility. It’s beholden more to foreign interests than its own. EU banker needs take precedence. Troika authority outside Greece dictates policy.
Public services are denied when most needed. They’ve gravely eroded en route to eliminating them altogether. Democracy’s birth place spurns its fundamental principles.
Killing the messenger isn’t new policy. Shutting down state broadcaster ERT is the latest blow. More on that below.
Doing the right thing in Greece is risky. Independent journalists and whistleblowers aren’t safe. Last year, Greek magazine publisher Costas Vaxevanis was charged with violating state privacy laws.
He did his job and faced charges. He published the so-called “Lagarde List.” In 2010, French authorities gave it to Athens. At issue is investigating 2,059 wealthy Greeks with secret offshore HSBC Swiss accounts.
They include business people, shipping magnates, politicians, physicians, lawyers, architects, scientists, journalists, housewives, a painter, an actress, and others.
How they accumulated wealth and why it’s held secretly needs explaining. Doing so raises obvious red flags. Tax avoidance is commonplace. It compounds other potential criminality.
Government officials ignore it. Doing so makes them complicit. Tax havens provide refuge.
Vaxevanis acted honorably. He did what’s expected from all journalists. Truth is an endangered species. Secrecy and lies substitute.
Democracy’s birthplace tramples on principles it once embraced. It’s not just in Greece. Police state repression, corruption, and indifference to human need replaced it.
It’s reached epidemic proportions. It’s shocking how things eroded. Vibrant economies fell from grace. Sweeping disregard for public need reflects it. So does violating core democratic principles.
None is more fundamental than free expression. Without it, all other freedoms are at risk. Killing the messenger destroys it. Greek authorities did so.
Late Tuesday evening, Greek state TV and radio (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation – ERT) was pulled off air. Saying it was to save money to satisfy creditors doesn’t wash. Rogue governments claim anything to justify policy.
Over 2,600 workers were sacked. Government spokesman Simon Kedikoglou said reopening later is planned. No time frame was given.
New staff will replace former workers. Their numbers will be substantially reduced. They’ll be more tightly controlled.
Greek authorities want total control of public information. They want what people most need to know suppressed. They want current staff replaced by regime loyalists. They want independent voices silenced.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras defended the indefensible, saying:
The “announcement should have been made years ago. We are abolishing a front of opacity and waste.”
“We will restore true public television with the most radical reform in the Greek media sector. We have already submitted the law to Parliament.”
Omitted was saying what’s involved is killing free expression. ERT journalist Yannis Darras said “(w)hat happened here was just done by dictators.”
An ERT newscaster said:
“Congratulations to the Greek government. This is a blow to democracy.”
He and thousands of other ERT employees protested outside its headquarters. They did so against government-ordered “sudden death.” Others called it a coup d’etat. At issue is “gag(ing) unbiased information.”
A public sector union spokesman said:
“In a systematic and autocratic way, the government has abolished the rights of workers and citizens one by one.”
“We call on every worker and every citizen to fight to overthrow the government’s catastrophic plans.”
A separate union representing Athenian journalists called an indefinite strike. Some newspapers couldn’t publish. Commercial broadcasters aired reruns instead of live programming.
Opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said:
“What we experienced yesterday was unprecedented, not only for Greece but for all of Europe. Public television goes dark only in two circumstances: when a country is occupied by foreign forces or when there is a coup.”
A Reporters Without Borders statement said:
“Greece has fallen almost 50 places in the past three years in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, a record fall in such a short period for a European Union member state.”
New Democracy Prime Minister Samaras runs Greece despotically. Next week he’ll meet with complicit coalition partners. They’ll consider what’s next. Greece’s government is fragile. New elections are possible.
An unnamed coalition source said “(t)he country’s on a knife’s edge.” Samaris is Greece’s fourth prime minister since 2011. How long he’ll last remains uncertain. Nor is who’ll win new elections are called.
“Either there’s a solution in a week or it’s elections,” headlined conservative newspaper Kathimerini.
In protest, unions called a 24-hour strike. Air traffic, public transportation and other government services are affected.
Short-term actions lack legitimacy. They’re ineffective. They’re worthless. They’re counterproductive.
They defuse public anger instead of escalating it. Nothing short of shutting down Greece indefinitely can work. Going out and staying out inflicts pain.
Yielding nothing until demands are met alone gets power brokers’ attention. Corrupt union bosses most often side with management. Public ones do so with governments. Collusion betrays their own rank and file. It’s commonplace across Europe and America.
Journalists continued striking for a second day. How long they’ll stay out remains to be seen. In 1938, ERT began broadcasting. It operates three TV channels, four nationwide radio stations, other regional ones and Voice of Greece.
It’s called ERA 5. It’s an international satellite/Internet/shortwave service.
Greece and Turkey lie on opposite sides of the Aegean Sea. Both countries are more police states than democracies. Challenging government authority isn’t tolerated.
Turkish police attack peaceful demonstrators violently. Broadcasters are prohibited from airing it. Greece does the same thing. Protests and strikes are crushed brutally.
Police states operate this way. Turkey and Greece are two of the worst. Justifiable public concerns are ignored. Wealth and power priorities alone matter. Democracy’s more fantasy than real.
Silencing free expression is a mortal blow. Before ERT shut down, staff said:
“We’re on air, the last little bit that’s left for us to breathe. We’re staying here all night and beyond that, as long as it takes.”
ERT journalist Marilena Katsimi said rumors surfaced two weeks ago. No one took them seriously. “We just couldn’t believe they would do it,” she said.
Hours before shutdown, the news director spoke to no one. At 6PM, word came. Government spokesman Simon Kedikoglou said “the party’s over.” Action was because of “a scandalous lack of transparency.” ERT is Greece’s only independent voice.
Kedikoglou piled on more. He said shutdown was to reduce waste and address a bloated workforce. He lied. Nothing he said holds water.
Since New Democracy’s coalition took power, expensive consultants were hired. ERT staff salaries were slashed 40%. Many earn poverty wages.
Samaris continues wasteful military spending. Greece is a NATO country. It’s a major weapons importer. As a percent of GDP, Greek defense spending nearly doubles other EU nations’ expenditures. It’s done while popular needs go begging.
Corruption defines Greek politics. It’s endemic. Public officials operate extrajudicially with no oversight or transparency. They demand and accept bribes. Wrongdoing subverts rule of law principles.
A culture of impunity exists. Privileged elites hide wealth in favored tax havens. Unaccountability lets them get away with what no one should tolerate.
It’s especially outrageous at a time of economic crisis and appalling human need. Force-feeding more pain exacerbates deplorable conditions.
Compromising free expression crosses a red line to tyranny. Controlling the message assures it. Tragedy in Greece is real. Some of the nation’s best and brightest left. Other professionals abroad aren’t returning.
Dire economic conditions created a lost generation. Replacing fundamental freedoms with groupthink assures no democracy where it was born. What would Socrates say?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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