Greece: Decisive action needed to protect journalists and salvage…

Murdered, surveilled and sued: decisive action needed to protect journalists and salvage press freedom in Greece 

Greek journalism is under sustained threat from the impact of the surveillance scandal “Predatorgate”, the unresolved killing of a reporter, abusive legal action and  economic and political pressures. Following a mission to Athens, eight international organisations today call on the Government and Prime Minister to show political courage and urgently take specific measures aimed at improving the climate for independent journalism and salvaging press freedom.

Although Europe has been shaken by the revelations about the targeting of Greek media professionals with spyware and the 2021 killing of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, the domestic authorities – though verbally supportive of the European Union’s action in favour of press freedom – have done little to remedy the problems. Following the recent parliamentary elections and nomination of the new Government, our organisations conducted a joint mission to Athens to analyse the underlying reasons for the recent erosion of media freedom and examine the possible opportunities for improvement. Between 25 and 27 September 2023, they met a variety of media with the broadest possible range of editorial lines, officials of several state bodies, and civil society stakeholders. 


The delegation was composed of the six members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR): ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) – joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).


The mission identifies four significant systemic challenges for press freedom in Greece, which when combined contribute to distrust between the journalists and the Government and a toxic and dangerous environment for critical and independent reporting: arbitrary surveillance, threats to the safety of journalists, abusive lawsuits as well as economic and political pressures. Taking specific measures proposed by the delegation and complying with European standards will allow the Government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to make a clear demonstration of political commitment to improve press freedom in Greece and renew the trust of the media community. 


Provide guarantees against and punish arbitrary surveillance

Between 2020 and 2022, a number of journalists and media owners were subjected to wiretapping by the National Intelligence Service (EYP), which is controlled by the Office of the Prime Minister, under the pretext of protecting national security. Some also faced illegal surveillance with the powerful Predator spyware. Although numerous complaints were filed, justice has not yet been served for these serious cases of violation of individual privacy and of confidentiality of journalistic sources, a cornerstone of press freedom. Despite our alerts and specific proposals, the legislation regulating surveillance has undergone only cosmetic changes or changes designed to let the government off the hook. In line with the European Parliament’s recommendations and the extensive case law of the European Court of Human Rights, we ask: 


  • The Government and Parliament to urgently adopt amendments to the legislation, which will oblige competent prosecutors to provide a justification for any surveillance undertaken in the interest of national security that allows for proper scrutiny of its legality and proportionality, set up independent and effective judicial oversight o, allow for effective access to information by persons targeted with surveillance by removing the arbitrary three-year time limit and reinstating the sole responsibility of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), and establish specific safeguards for journalists;
  • The Government to quickly propose and the Greek President to adopt the decree – as stipulated in the law – regulating the use of spyware by the state, while applying the above-mentioned safeguards;
  • The Greek justice system to bring justice for the illegitimate and illegal spying on media professionals in a swift, independent and transparent manner, using the evidence provided by the journalists’ investigations and treating the specific cases as a felony (rather than as a misdemeanor which expires after five years).
  • The Government and Parliament to refrain from taking any steps that weaken the functional independence of the ADAE and ensure the body is free to carry out its mandate to investigate wiretapping without political pressures


Take enforceable action against impunity for crimes against journalists 

With the unsolved murder of crime reporter Giorgios Karaivaz as the gravest example, this mission finds that attacking a journalist in Greece continues to go unpunished in virtually all cases. We welcome the arrest in April 2023 of two suspected assassins in connection with the murder of Karaivaz, however, the case remains in a state of impunity as middlemen and masterminds have not been apprehended and no convictions have been secured. This delay in securing justice sends a worrying signal that impunity for the murder of journalists is tolerated. Other investigations of serious physical attacks on journalists have followed a similar course, such as the 2010 murder of Sokratis Giolias and the eleven physical attacks on media houses and journalists’ homes since 2019. Two further recent acts of violence and hostility against journalists Giorgos Papachristos (Ta Nea) and Kostas Vaxevanis (Documento), underline the need for urgent action.


After meetings with various Government officials, we conclude that no concrete measures have been taken to expedite justice. Complete data on attacks against journalists is not publicly available and no specific protocol for investigations of crimes against journalists appears to be in place. The establishment of the Task Force for the protection of journalists is a step in the right direction, but it requires sufficient resources, a timeline and the political backing required to be effective. Information on why investigations of these cases are not leading to convictions remains with individual prosecutors, and oversight authorities have not prioritised this issue. 


In line with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission’s Recommendation on the Safety of Journalists, we ask:


  • The Public Prosecutor to dedicate additional resources to and actively collaborate with international bodies such as Europol in the case of the murder of Giorgios Karaivaz;
  • The Parliament and Government, especially the Ministry of Civil Protection and Justice, to prioritise and commit to prompt, effective and independent investigations of crimes against journalists by dedicating additional resources and staff to these cases, recognising their special nature and impact on the public sphere;
  • The Prosecutor of the Supreme Court to commission an independent evaluation of all unresolved cases of attacks against journalists, including cases involving police violence, the conclusions of which should be publicised; 
  • The newly established spokesperson of the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court to take a leading role in the regular dissemination of information about investigations to restore faith in the commitment to justice and ensure greater transparency about ongoing investigations, in particular towards the victims and their families;
  • The Task Force to prioritise the establishment of a monitoring platform in which all attacks, including digital attacks and threats, are recorded and followed. 


Abusive litigation, including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)


When journalists in Greece report critically on powerful business and political interests, the possibility of facing abusive or frivolous legal action looms over them. During the mission, we heard from several journalists who face Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and other abusive litigation from politicians and business owners who accuse reporters of defamation or the infraction of other laws including GDPR for their reporting on political affairs, environmental crimes, corruption and other matters in the public interest. 


This weaponised abuse of the civil and criminal legal system serves not to seek proportionate legal redress but rather to silence critical voices, tying up financial and human resources as reporters and newsrooms must spend an inordinate amount of time in court to defend against baseless accusations. Especially for smaller outlets and freelance journalists, SLAPPs pose an existential threat as often the compensation demanded greatly exceeds their resources, which further exacerbates their intended chilling effect beyond the targeted journalist.


We ask:


Media independence and pluralism

Undercutting these issues, the Greek media ecosystem continues to suffer from multiple long-term and systemic challenges that negatively affect the landscape for independent journalism and press freedom. Many of these issues can be traced to the country’s prolonged financial and economic crisis, which severely weakened the media market and deepened the toxic entanglement of media with vested political and business interests. While the media market remains densely populated, political polarisation is deeply ingrained and media pluralism is weak. Ownership of major print and television channels by familial dynasties and shipping magnates, many of whom have political connections and cross-ownership interests in industries dependent on state contracts, exposes these media to potential conflicts of interest and weakens their editorial independence. As a result, although direct acts of censorship are rare, self-censorship is rife within the journalistic profession and certain topics are widely understood to be off-limits. The economic precariousness of journalists in Greece caused by low wages and weak industry protections leaves media professionals more vulnerable to editorial pressures. Economic weaknesses in the media market likewise expose Greek media to capture by vested interests.

While several regulatory and legal reforms have been implemented by the Government in the last few years to try and address these issues, so far their impact remains unclear. Positive changes include the new Registry for Print Media (MET) and Registry for Electronic Press (MHT), which aim to improve the transparency of media ownership, including beneficial ownership. Under a new system, media not registered in these bodies are not eligible to benefit from state advertising. The Ethics Committee and the Directorate for Media Oversight likewise represent a new approach, which will hopefully have a positive impact on improving media ethics. Greater transparency over the allocation of state funding to media is also essential. However, the direct oversight of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) and the Athens-Macedonian News Agency by the office of the Prime Minister continue to pose questions over the independence of both public media bodies, despite ostensible safeguards. The independence and competence of the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) regulator remains in doubt.

While the country benefits from a small but highly professional group of independent and investigative media publishing vital public interest journalism, these titles remain isolated on the fringes of the media landscape and lack systemic support. The combination of these many challenges means Greek journalism faces a crisis of credibility, being one of the EU countries with the lowest level of trust in media by citizens. The challenges of pluralism and media independence are among the most complex to address and any positive developments in Greece will require action and responsibility from journalists and media, backed by unions, supported by strong political will from the Government.

To begin this process the Government should:

  • Take concrete steps to better regulate the fair and non-discriminatory allocation of state advertising to media in a transparent manner and based on strict and publicly available criteria;
  • Enforce the full implementation of the transparency of media ownership in Greece in an accessible and regularly updated ownership registry for all forms of media, including beneficial ownership;
  • In consultation with media stakeholders, develop reforms aimed at safeguarding independent journalism in line with provisions outlined in the proposed European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).

The media community should:

  • Support the pending establishment of an independent self-regulatory Media Council to enhance adherence to journalistic ethics, ensuring that the composition of this body is pluralistic and representative;
  • In media owned by wealthy and politically connected commercial interests, particularly in legacy broadcast and print media, journalists and editors should establish strict internal safeguards to prevent all forms of interference of owners and other politics and business interests, while also protecting editorial independence and journalistic freedoms and discouraging self-censorship.

Journalist unions and associations should:

  • Enhance cooperation to fight for the rights and freedoms of journalists, as well as collective agreements to improve working conditions and labour rights of all media workers;
  • Continue to support and contribute to the work of the government Task Force, while also pushing the body to be more ambitious in its approach to strengthening the safety of journalists and improving the broader situation for media freedom.


A detailed report with expanded recommendations will be published in the upcoming weeks, in both Greek and English, and will be shared with domestic stakeholders and European institutions.

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Greece: Refugee reporting in times of surveillance

Greece: Refugee reporting in times of surveillance

It could be the plot of a psychological thriller movie. It’s the true story of a young investigative journalist, Stavros Malichudis, who unintentionally became one of the protagonists of the Greek Watergate. His reports, awarded with many international prizes, told the stories of refugees in Greece.


By Mary Dosopoulos

Originally published by OBCT . Available also in ITA.

There is a new generation of Greek journalists, whose voice stands for a healthy form of active citizenship and human rights-oriented political participation. For them, reporting on topics that have been considered controversial or too ‘sensitive’ for the Greek state, such as refugees or corruption, has been quite challenging. Stavros Malichudis, a reporter covering migration, is one of the journalists who had reportedly been targeted with spyware for investigating the living conditions of a young Syrian boy detained on a Greek island. One year after a hearing organized by the European Parliament’s investigative committee and despite international pressure to proceed with investigations, little has been done at a national level.


Refugee reporting: a brief chronicle of a scandal

It could have been the scenario of a psychological thriller movie. It is an ordinary Saturday, in November 2021. A young journalist, Stavros Malichudis, is scrolling through his Facebook feed, when an interesting title catches his eye: ‘Citizens under surveillance by the National Intelligence Services’. The article, published by a leftist cooperative media outlet called EFSYN (Efimerida ton Syntakton, lit. ‘Newspaper of the Editors’) describes a dystopic landscape for freedom of expression in Greece, claiming that EYP (the Hellenic Intelligence Service) has been monitoring the activity of people engaged into two controversial topics: Refugees and Pandemic denial. Alluding to the ‘Stone Years’, when the government would hold files on citizens based on their ‘ideological status’, the writer reveals, among others, how the secret services had been following every single step of a reporter researching the story of a young refugee boy on a Greek island. It doesn’t take long for Stavros to understand that the article is about him.

This is how journalist Stavros Malichudis unintentionally became one of the protagonists of the Greek Watergate, a wiretapping scandal referring to the prolonged monitoring of the mobile phones of politicians and investigative reporters. While the spying scandal was unfolding, Malichudis was nominated together with Iliana Papangeli for a major European journalism award for their project documenting the stories of unaccompanied minors in Moria’s refugee camp. In 2022, they won the IJ4EU Impact Award  . In the same year, the annual World Press Freedom Index classified Greece as the lowest-ranked EU member for press freedom.

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) stood since the beginning in solidarity with Malichudis and the journalistic team at Solomon and issued a statement urging the European Commission and European Parliament to seek immediate responses from the Greek government. In light of these serious developments, in September, 8, 2022, the PEGA committee of the European Parliament organized a hearing on the ‘Use of spyware in Greece’, where Malichudis attended as one of the victims of wire-tapping, together with Thanasis Koukakis, journalist targeted with Predator and Eliza Triantafillou, investigative journalist with the Inside story. One month later, the MFRR partner organisations would publicly support ‘the calls for the testing of mobile devices belonging to journalists in Greece who suspect they may have been targets of intrusive spyware or other advanced surveillance’.

Despite the outcry by foreign media outlets, as well as local left-leaning platforms, the dominant media in Greece kept a distance from the scandal, focusing mainly on the cases of politicians under surveillance and often illustrating the story as a complex game of political rivalry. There were also cases of popular media outlets documenting the story, yet highlighting fragmented aspects of it, creating thus, a different impression. The title of an article published in in November, 4, 2022, is indicative of this tendency: ‘PEGA Commission: no proof of spyware use was found, but the complaints should be investigated in detail’.

The dominant tv channels of the country were certainly not interested in hearing what the affected reporters had to say, not to mention what their research findings were, despite them gaining international appraisal and recognition. ‘Even until today, I have never been invited to the news to talk about my work’, said Malichudis, interviewed for the OBCT in March 2023. ‘I have talked to the national radio stations of other countries, but not in my own. In Greece, the political reportage has gone extinct’.


One year later: Slow progress, low hope

After more than a year of vigorous investigations, in May, 8, 2023, PEGA adopted its final report and recommendation, introducing an EU-wide regulatory framework and a condition-based moratorium for the use of spyware. One month later, in June, 14, 2023, the Committee published a press release, calling for the conduction of full and credible investigations on the topic and also, for the adoption of institutional and legal safeguards to prevent abuse. The communique mentioned that ‘spyware should only be allowed in exceptional cases and for limited time’, while it also involved targeted recommendations to Greece and Cyprus. MEPs stressed that the illicit surveillance has put ‘democracy itself at stake’ and that ‘when used wrongly by governments, spyware is a huge risk to the rule of law and fundamental rights’. To help uncover and address such phenomena, Parliament proposed the creation of an EU Tech Lab, an independent research institute that would be mandated to investigate surveillance and provide technological support.

The news of these EU-related initiatives barely reached the Greek audience, as they were overshadowed by the deadly shipwreck of a boat carrying refugees that took place in the early hours of the first day, near Pylos; one of the worst accidents in its kind ever recorded in the Mediterranean sea. This dramatic incident triggered a wave of critical questions coming from independent local media regarding the government’s management of the tragedy and its stance towards refugees, overall. The shipwreck would mark the beginning of a turbulent summer for Greece. In the past two months, the country has been tormented by wildfires and deadly floodings; in this context, the focus of national media has been on extreme weather phenomena and alleviation measures for the struggling population. Once again, the government’s response has been heavily criticized by a small part of the media, who have not attributed this catastrophe primarily on climate change, but rather on lack of preparedness, disorganization and mismanagement. These opinions have been circulated mainly on the social media.


Personal implications for reporters and trauma

Looking at the wider picture, PEGA-led developments are certainly positive; at the same time, however, recommendations are vague and leave an open door for ‘exceptional cases’, meaning that governments will still be able to rely on loopholes to justify surveillance of citizens. It could be argued that the Committee has missed the opportunity to voice a strong message against practices that undermine media freedom in its member states, downsizing at the same time, the impact that such practices can have on reporters’ well-being, social circle and career.

Refugee reporting is a controversial issue in Greece. While investigative reporters’ mission is to document and shed light on the turbulences experienced by migrants, legal or not, research findings are limited when it comes to understanding and assessing the implications that this procedure as a whole has on reporters’ wellbeing, starting with the process per se of on-the-ground critical covering on refugee trauma to the implications of getting spied upon. Malichudis shares the impact that the surveillance scandal had on him both as a person and as a professional: “In the beginning, I would be scared to even touch my phone. My main fear was unwillingly putting friends or colleagues on the spotlight. I didn’t know why I had become a target, what these people wanted from me and what their intentions were; this made me feel unsafe and often suspicious. With time, I managed to distance myself from this situation. I understood that it wasn’t personal”. Becoming conscious of how vulnerable one can be to surveillance – or even physical attacks (as in the recent case of Kostas Vaxevanis) – might also have practical implications for one’s daily working routine: Adjusting one’s working space/offices to become less visible and less approachable or learning to work in smaller and more flexible teams are some of the ‘remedies’ that Malichudis and his team have resorted to.

Reporters in Greece, especially the young ones, continue being underpaid and relying on short-term contracts; furthermore, they are frequently reminded that there are some topics that simply should not be researched and some sectors that are meant to be untouched, such as the banking or the shipping sector in Greece. The fact that the biggest media outlets in the country are donor-dependent implies that one should not investigate anything exposing the donor and jeopardizing their interests. In this framework, there is a significant part of independent investigative journalists from Greece, in their majority young, who have chosen to report for foreign media only, driven both by financial reasons, but also by the fact that they enjoy more freedom. In an article written for the New York Times, Lauren Markham and Lydia Emmanouilidou share that ‘any journalist who covers refugee arrivals to the Aegean Islands or the Evros land border with Turkey risks arrest’.

Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Recent survey findings conducted in Greece speak of a gradual shift in public opinion regarding the credibility of information served en masse by the popular local media: For instance, according to the 2023 Digital News Report of the Reuters Institute, recently published in Kathimerini, there is growing mistrust among Greeks towards the ‘social media of well-established news platforms’ and the so-called ‘popular’ or ‘dominant’ news.  Malichudis believes that the spyware scandal has helped restore the negative public image of journalists, by debunking the narrative of journalists as pawns of each ruling party. ‘The Greek audience is becoming aware’, says Malichudis. ‘Due to the scandal and all the discussions that it triggered, they are starting to understand that some journalists are, in fact, OK. This is why they are looking for alternative forms of media to access more reliable information. I believe that eventually, people will save Greek journalism’.

This article was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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MFRR mission to Greece Library

Greece: International press freedom mission to Athens

Greece: International press freedom mission to Athens

Between 25 and 27 September 2023, eight international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations will conduct a joint advocacy and fact-finding mission to Athens. Following the parliamentary elections and nomination of the new government, the delegation will examine the challenges to media freedom, pluralism and independence in Greece and the impact of measures taken by the authorities to address them.

Between 25 and 27 September 2023, eight international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations will conduct a joint advocacy and fact-finding mission to Athens. Following the parliamentary elections and nomination of the new government, the delegation will examine the challenges to media freedom, pluralism and independence in Greece and the impact of measures taken by the authorities to address them.


The delegation will consist of representatives of the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), namely ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). Representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) join the mission.


During the visit, the delegation will meet with leading media professionals, political officials, state representatives and other important stakeholders. A follow-up to last year’s MFRR online fact-finding mission to Greece, the mission confirms the long-standing commitment of the participating organisations to improving press freedom in the country. It will examine threats to the safety of journalists, impunity of crimes committed against them, surveillance, risks to media pluralism, and legal threats, including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). 


On 27 September, the delegation will hold a press conference in Athens to present initial observations and recommendations. A detailed mission report will be published in autumn.

This mission was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

The undersigned journalists’ and media freedom organisations strongly condemn the recent attacks against Greek journalists Giorgos Papachristos and Kostas Vaxevanis and call on the authorities to swiftly investigate the attacks and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

On 29 August, Giorgos Papachristos, an editorialist and adviser at the centrist daily Ta Nea, was attacked at a football match in Athens. According to the case filed by the journalist, businessman and ship owner Yiannis Karagiorgis, backed by two bodyguards, punched him in the face and head in an unprovoked attack. Karagiorgis also reportedly threatened to kill Papachristos and ordered his associates to “kill him on the spot”. Papachristos was taken to the Sismanoglio hospital for medical examinations and was treated for injuries. The motive behind the attack is not yet established, however Papachristos had written critical reports on Karagiorgis’s business activities.


On 26 August, Kostas Vaxevanis, a veteran investigative journalist and publisher of the weekly Documento, was attacked along with his family while dining, on the island of Evia. The attack occurred after an individual entered the restaurant, approached the journalist and began swearing at him aggressively: “You are a spoiled brat, I will sort you out but not now. You bastard for daring to write about me because I have money in Switzerland.” The man continued to insult and threaten Vaxevanis, complaining about a name put “on the Lagarde list”. As the situation escalated, Vaxevanis’s mother-in-law was physically assaulted and required treatment for facial injuries. The man fled the restaurant.


As reported on Mapping Media Freedom, Documento journalists conducted research to identify the man and cross-check his name against the Lagarde list, a spreadsheet published by Vaxevanis in 2012, containing around 2,000 potential tax evaders with undeclared accounts at Swiss HSBC bank’s Geneva branch. According to Documento, the attacker was a relative of Michalis Stasinopoulos, one of the richest businessmen in Greece, whose name was included on the list.


Vaxevanis is known for his numerous investigations into corruption, for which he has received numerous threats and death threats. In 2021, he was given increased police protection after the Athens Prosecutor’s Office ordered a preliminary investigation into information about a murder contract issued against him.


The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers published statements condemning both attacks. While our organisations welcome the swift statement of condemnation of the attack on Papachristos by the Greek government spokesperson, we note that no similar denunciation was made regarding the attack against Vaxevanis and his family days previously.


Our organisations further call on the Greek authorities to swiftly investigate the complaints filed by the two journalists and to bring criminal charges against those responsible. These two cases of violence again underscore the worrying situation for the safety of journalists in Greece, and media freedom more widely.


In both cases, the identity of the alleged perpetrators are known to police and the incidents occurred in front of multiple witnesses. Arrests should therefore follow quickly. Those behind these brazen attacks must not be permitted to act with impunity. Our organisations have reported these cases to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Signed by:

  • European Federation of Journalists
  • International Federation of Journalists
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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The scene of Giorgos Karaivaz’s murder Library

Greece: MFRR partners welcome first arrests over 2021 assassination…

Greece: MFRR partners welcome first arrests over 2021 assassination of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz

The undersigned partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) welcome the arrests announced last Friday of two suspects in connection with the 2021 assassination of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece. The two men, brothers aged 40 and 48, are now in custody and awaiting a hearing today, May 3rd.

The undersigned partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) welcome the arrests announced last Friday of two suspects in connection with the 2021 assassination of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece. The two men, brothers aged 40 and 48, are now in custody and awaiting a hearing today, May 3rd.


The exact alleged role of the suspects, both Greek nationals, in the murder has not yet been confirmed by prosecutors. News of the arrests was announced on social media by the Minister of Citizen Protection, rather than by law enforcement authorities. According to the Hellenic Police, two other suspects are still wanted in connection with the killing, but the motive remains unconfirmed.


Karaivaz, an experienced crime reporter, was gunned down by two men on a scooter outside his home in Athens on 9 April 2021. Following the killing, police said the “professional” style of the assassination indicated the involvement of organised crime. Last month, the case formally became an instance of impunity for murder, considering there had been no significant progress in investigating or prosecuting the crime for two years.


Last week’s arrests represent the first big step forward and have revived hope that at least some of those responsible for the despicable murder could finally be held accountable. However, to secure full justice for Karaivaz and his family, all those involved in the killing, from the gunman and getaway driver up to the middlemen and mastermind(s), must be prosecuted and put behind bars.


As our organisations mark World Press Freedom Day today, we continue to follow the case closely and do all we can to secure justice for Karaivaz and help strengthen media freedom and independent journalism in Greece, which remain in a poor condition.

Signed by:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed outside his home in Athens on Friday 9 April, 2021 Library

Greece: Impunity continues two years after murder of journalist…

Greece: Impunity continues two years after murder of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz

Two years ago, veteran Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was assassinated in Athens. Today, the undersigned partners in the Council of Europe’s Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists honour Karaivaz’s memory.

We also renew our call on the Greek authorities to urgently bring to justice all those responsible for this abhorrent murder and to provide more transparency about the investigation. It is wholly unacceptable and deeply saddening that the case must now be categorised as an instance of impunity for murder, considering there has been no significant progress in investigating or prosecuting this crime for two years.


Karaivaz was an experienced reporter who worked for the TV channel STAR and ran a news website focusing on crime and policing. On 9 April 2021, he was gunned down outside his home in broad daylight by two men on a scooter. Following the killing, police said the “professional” style of the assassination indicated the involvement of organised crime.


In the immediate aftermath, the Greek authorities promised to prioritise the case and make every effort to swiftly bring the perpetrators and masterminds to justice. Yet to date, no arrests have been made, nor have any suspects been publicly identified, despite the collection of large amounts of data, security camera footage and forensic analysis. The authorities have not announced any substantial progress in the investigation. Information about the status of the investigation is being closely guarded by law enforcement bodies, despite repeated calls for more transparency by media freedom organisations, including several of the Platform’s partners. While we recognise the need to keep certain details of the investigation secret, the lack of communication by state authorities around the criminal probe has led to uncertainty and deepened the chilling effect of the assassination on the journalistic community.


Impunity arises from States’ failure to effectively investigate cases of serious human rights violations, which is an obligation with an absolute character under the European Convention on Human Rights. Effectiveness entails that an investigation must be capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible, comprehensive in scope and address all relevant background circumstances. It must also be prompt, impartial and independent, and sufficiently open to public scrutiny to maintain public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law and to prevent any appearance of collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts.


Karaivaz’s assassination represents a low point for press freedom in Greece. Every day without progress in the investigation and prosecution further tarnishes the reputation of the authorities responsible. We will continue honouring Giorgos Karaivaz’s memory and pushing for justice for him, his family, friends, and colleagues.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Data protection and press freedom Greece Library

Weaponizing GDPR: How EU data protection threatens press freedom…

Weaponizing GDPR: How EU data protection threatens press freedom in Greece

The instrumental use of EU data protection threatens press freedom in Greece, as shown by the case of journalist Stavroula Poulimeni and the independent media outlet Alterthess, sentenced in the first instance to pay compensation of 3,000 euros to Efstathios Lialos, executive of the Hellas Gold gold mine.

Originally published by OBCT, also available in ITA

At the end of March, journalist Stavroula Poulimeni and the independent media outlet Alterthess were ordered in first instance to pay compensation of EUR 3,000 to Greek gold mine (Hellas Gold) executive Efstathios Lialos.

According to the ruling, Poulimeni violated the executive’s privacy by writing his name and position in a 2020 article about Lialos’s conviction for environmental pollution in Halkidiki, northern Greece.

The sum is considerably less than the EUR 100,000 requested by Lialos, but at stake, according to Poulimeni, is a question of journalistic freedom. In a statement, Alterthess referred to the verdict as a ‘blow to press freedom’, and expressed the intention to appeal against the court’s decision. ‘Personal #DataProtection doesn’t justify suppressing info vital to public interest’, Reporters Without Borders stated in a tweet.

In the interview that follows, Poulimeni spoke to OBC Transeuropa about her experience as an independent journalist in crisis-ravaged Greece and her reporting on environment degradation in Halkidiki, and explained why the verdict against her threatens the right of the public to be informed.

OBC Transeuropa: What is the professional path that led you to co-found the independent news outlet Alterthess in the middle of the economic crisis? 

I’ve been a journalist since 2008. In 2011, with a group of people – not only journalists – we decided to establish an investigative, independent and collaborative media project in Thessaloniki. We called it Alterthess, because it told stories from an ‘alternative’ Thessaloniki. We cover grassroots initiatives, social issues, human rights, migration, the rights of the  LGBTQIA+ community, and we are outspoken against racism.

When we started, the economic crisis was in full swing, Greece had entered the first ‘Memorandum’ and the European ‘Troika’ had been established in the country. A lot of protests and demonstrations were taking place against austerity measures, but the mainstream media lacked independent analysis. We decided to try and fill this gap, and invested all our energies into Alterthess. The outlet is well connected with local movements and groups, but it’s hard to survive financially. We are trying to gather support from our readers, as we don’t have state funding to rely on.


How did you grow interested in environmental issues, and when did you start reporting on the mining project in Skouries? 

I have been covering environmental topics for twelve years now. There are many stories to be told, especially since the wave of privatisations invested public resources such as water, forests, etc.

Alterthess reported on the mining project – and the struggle against it – from the very start. I have been to Skouries many times. There are no trees now, and mining infrastructure has been built. But for many years, protests have been taking place against the project, facing state suppression, police attacks and legal battles. We covered the story from different angles – economical, social, psychological, and, of course, environmental – and we are deeply connected to the local protest movement, even though in the last years it has grown progressively weaker.


You and Alterthess were the target of a vexatious lawsuit connected to your work in Skouries. How did it happen? 

On 27 October 2020, two high-ranking executives of Hellas Gold [The company, owned by Canadian Eldorado Gold, which is working on mining development in Skouries], were convicted in the first instance on water pollution charges. On the same day, I wrote an article about it in Alterthess, and nothing happened.

One year later, in September 2021, the conviction was confirmed, and I wrote about it again. The following month, after the second conviction, a lawsuit initiated by Efstathios Lialos, one of the two executives, was notified to us. The lawsuit referred to the article I had written in 2020, after the first conviction, and was based on an alleged violation of GDPR, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation: in my article, I had reported the convicted executives’ names.


What was your first reaction when you received the lawsuit?

In a way, I was surprised. Firstly, my article dated back to the previous year; secondly, it did not include any false information, nor did it contain any comment. It merely reported what had happened in court; thirdly, the lawsuit did not require us to take down the article, but asked me and Alterthess to pay EUR 100,000 as compensation for illegal processing of personal data related to a criminal conviction.

On the other hand, what happened was not completely unexpected. While the lawsuit against us came from an individual, we knew that companies use legal threats to silence critical reporting. In Greece, private actors usually resort to advertising as a tool to obtain favourable coverage or not be subjected to journalistic scrutiny. When this is not enough, they resort to legal threats.


What were the consequences of the lawsuit on your job and personal life? 

Facing a SLAPP is extremely draining. You have to deal with legal matters on a daily basis, and this has both a psychological and an economic impact. For a long time, you cannot be completely focused on your work. We received the lawsuit in October 2021, and the discussion in court only took place in May 2022. For months, we have been waiting and preparing for the trial. During the time we were waiting for the verdict, we felt a lot of anxiety.

We tried not to be discouraged, and started to publish several articles on the subject of SLAPPs and intimidation of journalists. This is more than just a personal matter: SLAPPs have consequences on public interest reporting in general, because in the future, journalists might be afraid of writing about certain issues.


What has been the reaction of fellow journalists and institutions to the lawsuit against you? Have you received support and solidarity from society at large?

When we received the lawsuit, we didn’t know what a SLAPP was, and neither did Greek journalists’ unions. Only later, when we started spreading the word about the issue, we found out that other journalists had been targets of such lawsuits too. International organisations such as the International Press Institute (IPI), Amnesty International and the European Centre for Press & Media Freedom (ECPMF) had more experience; they issued announcements and supported us from the very first day.

As for institutions, our case was raised in the European Parliament by SYRIZA MP Kostas Arvanitis, and there were statements and parliamentary questions in the Greek Parliament as well. However, it was the solidarity of common people and grassroots movements in Skouries and elsewhere that showed us that people recognized the importance of our public interest reporting.

The Greek mainstream media, on the contrary, did not support us much, and this is a problem. As said, I think there is a problem of financial interests exerting control on the media narrative.


The first instance verdict partly upheld Lialos’s complaint that his privacy had been unfairly violated. What are the implications of this ruling? 

Our case is quite unusual because it has to do with data protection. If confirmed, a ruling against us could trigger a new wave of prosecutions weaponizing GDPR regulations to inhibit public interest journalism and its ability to call things – and people – by their names. The true stake is not the money we are being asked to pay, but the right of the public to be informed.


You hinted at systemic problems in the Greek media landscape. How has the situation evolved over the last few years, and how do SLAPPs fit into the wider picture of declining press freedom in Greece?

The problem of press freedom in Greece has deep roots. It is a complex issue, which also has to do with the economic situation: many media outlets were shut down during the crisis, fellow journalists were laid off, and still today most media workers struggle to make ends meet.

In many respects, things have gotten worse in recent years, not only because of SLAPPs. It is a widespread perception among journalists that private and government actors can more often and easily attack press freedom compared to a few years ago.

The wiretapping scandal has uncovered a worrying surveillance network, but also part of the picture are the frequent police attacks on journalists and photojournalists at demonstrations, and the character assassination on social media, especially against colleagues who cover migration issues and are portrayed as “foreign agents”.

The good news, and hopefully also a turning point, is that the debate on press freedom in Greece has finally opened.

This interview was coordinated as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Greek journalist Stavroula Poulimeni, of the cooperative and independent media outlet Alterthess. Photo credit: Konstantinos Tsakalidis Library

Greece: MFRR to fund legal appeal for lawsuit against…

Greece: MFRR to fund legal appeal for lawsuit against Alterthess

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express dismay over the recent court ruling involving a SLAPP lawsuit against independent Greek media outlet Alterthess and one of its journalists, Stavroula Poulimeni. Using the MFRR Legal Support fund, our consortium will help provide funding to cover legal fees for their appeal.

In early 2023, a court in Athens partially accepted the civil lawsuit filed by the former high-ranking executive of a gold mining company, Hellas Gold, and ordered the cooperative media outlet to pay a total of €3,000 in damages to the plaintiff.


As previously reported, the lawsuit stemmed from a court report that Poulimeni had published in October 2020 regarding the first-instance criminal conviction of two executives from Hellas Gold over the company’s alleged pollution of water sources in North Halkidiki. Following a first appeal, the convictions were initially confirmed at the Appeal Court in September 2021, as Alterthess reported at the time.


A month later in October 2021, one of the executives, Efstathios Lialios, filed a lawsuit based partly on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulation which demanded €100,000 in compensation, arguing that the journalist had defamed him and illegally violated his private data by publishing his full name and position when reporting the first-instance conviction. After a second appeal, both executives’ convictions were then overturned by a higher court in May 2022, as Alterthess also reported at the time.


In 2023, the Court of First Instance in Athens dismissed Lialios’ defamation allegation but sided with the plaintiff on the GDPR claim, awarding compensation for “moral damage”. While the damages were significantly lower than the €100,000 originally demanded, we believe the implications of this ruling go far beyond money and touch upon principles fundamental to media freedom.


Firstly, in convicting a journalist for reporting details about a first-instance criminal conviction, the court’s verdict undermines the principles of both open justice and court reporting. The trial in question was held in open session, without reporting restrictions, and the first-instance verdict was publicly announced in court. Reporting news about the conviction, including the individuals’ names and positions, is standard journalistic practice across the world. The conclusion of the judge that the journalist should have sought the individual’s consent for his name and position when this conviction is reported to be published is entirely unjustifiable.


Moreover, citizens living in Halkidiki and northern Greece have a right to receive timely information about individuals found guilty in the first-instance, especially when it involves a matter of serious public interest such as the pollution of water in their local area. The right of the media to publish such information therefore clearly outweighs a convicted individual’s expectation of privacy. While the executives’ guilty verdicts may later have been overturned on appeal, at that moment in October 2020 it was clearly in the public interest to report the first stage of the judicial process.


In ruling the other way, this judgment sets a dangerous legal precedent. As Poulimeni has rightly warned, if this verdict stands it could trigger a wave of similar lawsuits based on GDPR regulations to muzzle public interest media reporting and keep certain information secret. This ruling therefore risks encouraging other powerful individuals or companies to weaponise GDPR regulations to try and keep certain information or names out of the public domain. We believe this verdict therefore poses a threat to press freedom in Greece, which is already under considerable strain.


Through our Legal Support Fund, the MFRR organisations have therefore decided to provide funding to cover the legal fees required to challenge this verdict at the Court of Appeal in Athens. Moving forward, we hope the court will recognise the principles at stake here and ultimately overturn out this worrying first-instance verdict. Ensuring a just outcome will be important not just for Alterthess and Stavroula Poulimeni, but for all journalists carrying out similar watchdog reporting in Greece.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Greece: MFRR alarmed by latest revelations of spying on…

Greece: MFRR alarmed by latest revelations of spying on journalists

The partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) are alarmed by the continued lack of transparency of the Greek authorities about the surveillance of journalists.

As reported last week, an audit by the Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) at telecom company Cosmote confirmed that the state security services wiretapped investigative journalist Tasos Telloglou for unspecified national security reasons. The ADAE conducted the audit on 15 December, following requests by Telloglou and MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos, who was expelled from the ruling New Democracy party earlier this year. 


Cosmote unsuccessfully attempted to interfere with the inspection, as its legal adviser questioned the ADAE’s competence and contacted Supreme Court prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos. The latter allegedly tried to intervene and stop the audit by stating that there should be an immediate opinion of the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office on whether ADAE or interested citizens are allowed to be informed of possible surveillance by the National Intelligence Service (EYP). The ADAE, however, invoked its constitutional authority and insisted on the audit. Dogiakos has meanwhile said that he simply expressed a non-binding view, even though he believes the audit was not legal. He also lashed out against media that have criticised the Greek judicial authorities for their handling of the ongoing investigation into “Greek Watergate”, and called for an extensive tax audit of the outlets.


Telloglou, who works for investigative platform Inside Story, leading daily Kathimerini and the ANT1 television news programme “Special Report, had written in October that he believed he was put under surveillance in connection with his reporting on a spyware scandal. In the article, he said his colleague at Inside Story, Eliza Triantafillou and journalist Thodoris Chondrogiannos of Reporters United had also been monitored. Both outlets repeatedly published breaking news about the use of spyware and alleged connections between companies that market the technology and Greek government figures.


Last week’s revelations are the latest chapter in a sprawling scandal in Greece which has implicated the EYP and the government in the surveillance of journalists. This involves the confirmed hacking of the phone of freelance financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis through the use of Predator spyware by an unknown party and allegations that investigative reporter Stavros Malichudis was secretly monitored by the EYP. In November, newspaper Documento published an article alleging that numerous journalists, editors, media owners and others connected to the industry were targeted with Predator spyware. 


These cases are major violations of the affected journalists’ privacy, journalistic source protection, and press freedom in general. Although an investigation into Koukakis’ case has been launched, overall accountability remains wanting, and the Greek authorities have provided no real transparency. Quite the opposite: soon after New Democracy came to power in 2019, it moved to bring the intelligence service under the direct purview of the office of the Prime Minister and amended the requirements for the position of Director of Intelligence so the Prime Minister’s favourite could be appointed. In March 2021, the governing party rushed through a legislative amendment that changed the legal provisions that allowed citizens to be informed by the ADAE about whether they had been under surveillance if it had taken place for national security reasons. The cases at hand, pertaining to journalists who report in the public interest, serve to underscore the problematic nature of this exemption, showcasing the potential for abuse of this clause.


Accordingly, the MFRR reiterates its calls on the Greek authorities to provide transparency and accountability for these severe attacks on press freedom and privacy, and to put an immediate halt to the practice. We also renew our calls for action at the EU level, including through the inclusion in the European Media Freedom Act of provisions that effectively protect journalists and media workers against illegal surveillance.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Greece: Full scale of surveillance on journalists must be…

Greece: Full scale of surveillance on journalists must be unearthed

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today back calls for the testing of mobile devices belonging to journalists in Greece who suspect they may have been targets of intrusive spyware or other advanced surveillance.

The recent scandals regarding spyware attacks and wiretapping of journalists require full transparency and accountability, and have underscored deepening concerns about the erosion  of media freedom under the New Democracy government.


So far it has been revealed that in summer 2021 financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis had his phone hacked using a spyware tool called Predator. He was also separately wiretapped by the Greek security services under obscure “national security” grounds. There is also evidence that Stavros Malichudis, an investigative journalist for Solomon covering refugees and migration, was also surveilled by intelligence bodies in 2021.


Both cases represent major violations of journalists’ privacy, journalistic source protection and press freedom. In neither case has accountability been reached or the full truth revealed. Our organisations share concerns that these cases could potentially represent the tip of the iceberg of deeper surveillance of Greek journalists by state and private actors.


In late September, Greek journalists and foreign correspondents issued an appeal to the European Parliament for funding and facilities to test their mobile devices for traces of surveillance. Currently, the EU’s internal cyber-security mechanisms only have a mandate for testing the devices of MEPs and other EU officials.


As spyware and other advanced surveillance technologies become more prevalent across Europe in the coming years, the threat to democracy and civil rights will likewise increase. Already, multiple EU Member States – including Hungary – have abused these technologies to target journalists, activists and other members of civil society. In addition to tougher regulation, mechanisms must urgently be put in place to ensure that flagrant abuses of these cyber weapons against the media and others are swiftly identified and addressed.


Our organisations therefore support calls for the provision of funding from the European Union to help facilitate the testing of devices of journalists and other members of civil society in EU states where private forensic testing facilities are not available domestically, or where national authorities are unable or unwilling to help. This would give citizens and journalists, including those in Greece, a powerful tool to seek redress, help identify abusers of the technology and understand how deep the iceberg goes.


In addition to increased testing, additional steps must also be taken at the EU level to ensure that others do not join Greek journalists as victims of illegal surveillance. The European Commission’s recently launched European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) correctly recognises the recent evolution of surveillance threats and includes specific rules about the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families.


However, under the EMFA, Member States would retain exemptions that permit the surveillance of journalists using spyware without the need for prior judicial review in cases which involve threats to national security or other serious crimes investigations. This complete lack of legal oversight for use of military-grade spyware is highly problematic and leaves the door wide open to further abuses.


The fact that Thanasis Koukakis, a financial and banking journalist, and Stavros Malichudis, who was writing about a Syrian boy’s art prize at the time, were both wiretapped under “national security” justifications, offers worrying examples of how these exemptions are open to abuse by governments and intelligence agencies to spy on legitimate journalistic work. Article 4 of the EMFA must therefore be significantly strengthened if it wants to achieve real protection for journalists and their sources.


Moving forward, we also urge the European Parliament’s PEGA Committee of Inquiry to propose strong recommendations for tougher regulation on the sale, trade and use of these kinds of intrusive surveillance weapons inside and outside the European Union, and for far greater transparency from state institutions.


If and when additional infections are identified, both the surveillance-for-hire companies that market these tools, and any actors, including state intelligence or law enforcement bodies, who unjustifiably deploy them against journalists must be held accountable for these grave violations of fundamental rights.


Our organisations will continue to closely monitor the situation regarding media freedom in Greece and document all future attacks on journalists.

Signed by:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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