International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have strongly condemned a violent raid by Greek police on the main headquarters of Greece’s national
broadcaster ERT in Athens in the early hours of this morning.
According to media reports, at approximately 4:30am, Greek riot police, accompanied by a public prosecutor, entered the ERT building in the Agia Paraskevi area, asking employees to leave the premises. Reports say that the riot police blocked all entrances to the building and have refused to allow anyone to enter. Roads were blocked and traffic was stopped during the operation.
IFJ/EFJ Greek affiliate, the Journalists' Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (JUADN), says police used tear gas to drive the station’s journalists and media workers away from the building. It has been reported that four ERT media workers were arrested, but they have subsequently been released.
“We express our shock and anger at this absolutely unnecessary action by the authorities in Greece and we strongly condemn such use of force and violence in what is supposed to be a democratic country,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at ERT and our affiliates Greece in calling for Greek authorities to leave the building with immediate effect and return it to ERT’s media workers and journalists.”
Over the last few months, sacked journalists from ERT, which was shut down on June 11 by the government, had been operating from their old headquarters via satellite and over the internet, demanding the reopening of the broadcaster. The government had described their decision to stay in the building as an illegal occupation of public property, with a Greek government spokesman today claiming the police did its job to help the government take control of a building that belongs to the Greek State.
From the beginning of the raid, members from the JUADN and the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Union (PFJU) were constantly present in support of ERT colleagues. ERT journalists and members of the Greek Parliament remain outside the building, demanding entry, while a crowd of protestors at the front of the building continues to grow.
The Greek unions have announced that a demonstration will take place today at 4pm, both in Athens, in front of ERT’s Headquarters, and Thessaloniki, in front of ERT3 TV station premises.
Moschos Voitsidis, president of the Journalists' Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH), said: “When you opt for authoritarianism instead of a democratic dialogue process and good faith bargaining, as was the case with ERT’s shutdown on June 11, then inevitably every subsequent step will lead to darker ventures.”
“EFJ President Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård said: “Journalists and trade unions were treated like criminals, which is unacceptable. What we want is dialogue and to try to fix problems, but it is very difficult to find solutions when you are treated like this.”