News / Europe

Greek Protests Grow Over Closure of State Broadcaster

Employees of the Greece state broadcaster ERT in the control room at the television station's headquarters in Athens, June 12, 2013.
Employees of the Greece state broadcaster ERT in the control room at the television station's headquarters in Athens, June 12, 2013.
Henry Ridgwell
Unions and politicians in Greece are urging the government to reverse its decision to close the state broadcaster - the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT.  The decision to take it off the air has prompted widespread protests.  Labor unions will hold a protest strike Thursday and there are fears the controversial decision could plunge Greece back into political chaos.

In the final broadcast on state television Tuesday night, emotional colleagues were seen hugging each other in the newsroom.

Then, as the news reader began a live interview, the channel was pulled from the airwaves.

Some 2,700 ERT workers have had their jobs suspended.  Many, however, have continued to work at their desks, refusing police orders to leave the building.  Outside, demonstrations have swelled.

Demonstrators included Panagiotis Kalfayiannis, president of the ERT Workers’ Union.

For us, there is only one way forward - resistance, and the overturning of this situation, the rape of state television and news gathering.  We hope this will be a catalyst," he says.

The government says the closure is temporary - aimed at stanching what it called an "incredible waste" of taxpayers' money and satisfying international lenders.  A smaller state broadcaster will be set up and workers compensated.

But the backlash appears to have caught the government by surprise, says political analyst Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos of Birkbeck College in London.

“There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that that particular company needs to be reformed dramatically.  But there is reform and there is reform.  And shutting it down is not the kind of welcome reform that many Greeks want.  This particular company is a symbol of freedom,” Dimitrakopoulos said

The shutdown was not debated in parliament but forced through by ministerial decree.

It has sparked an internal revolt in Greece’s fragile governing coalition, with the two smaller parties voicing strong opposition.

Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos warns that Greece’s political crisis could be rekindled.

“The worst case scenario is for the government to collapse and a new electoral contest to take place.  This is the last thing that the country needs.” Dimitrakopoulos said.

ERT had been on the air since 1938, but its audience share had dwindled to 13 percent.

In the Greek islands and regions, the state broadcaster played an important role, according to Panayiotis Demopoulos, an activist in the northern region of Kozani.

Demopoulos says for people in the provinces, the ERT has always been a service that safeguarded the Greek people’s participation in democratic decision-making.

Demopoulos says the broadcaster’s closure is indicative of a wider democratic shortfall.

He says everything happened in an extremely rapid and autocratic way, which suggests - without exaggerating or being metaphorical - that those in power are now practicing a dictatorial form of government.

The protests compound a volatile week, after the government failed to sell the state-owned gas utility - part of a huge sell-off of state assets demanded by European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout terms.

The EU has called on Greece to stick to its timetable.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid