Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has ordered an urgent investigation into the killing Friday of one of the country’s top crime reporters, Giorgos Karaivaz.
Greek media have long been targeted by far-left organizations and anarchists in a show of violent defiance to what they call links between them and the nation’s political and financial establishment. However, journalist killings are rare in Greece. If it is established that the reporter was gunned down for carrying out his duties, it will be the first such case in Europe in years.
Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis left a marathon meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Friday, saying he was determined to hunt down Karaivaz’s killers.
He called the assassination an abhorrent crime but said he is convinced authorities will soon find those responsible, and hand them over to justice to be dealt with.
The race is on… and the stakes are high.
Karaivaz was gunned down by a pair of masked men who pumped ten bullets into the crime reporter’s head, neck and left palm, leaving him dead in a pool of blood outside his home, in the balmy residential suburb of Alimos, south of Athens.
Locals like Elias, a municipal gardener who refused to give his last name for fear of reprisals, said he saw the gunmen and was stunned by how calculating and calmly they conducted themselves.
The actual gunshot(s) were not heard because they used a silencer, he said. The killers both came in on a motorbike, gunned down Karaivaz and left calmly, as if nothing had happened.
Authorities say they are now putting together pieces of the mystery, trying to identify the assailants from surveillance cameras, burner phones and a string of forensic evidence that has so far been compiled.
They believe Karaivaz had been tracked for days before gunmen committed the deadly shooting Friday, in broad daylight.
Senior police officials told VOA they suspect the killing is linked to organized crime and a group called Mafia Greece, known for hiring foreign shooters to sort out differences in the underworld here.
Eleftherios Economou, the deputy citizens’ protection minister explains.
There is no doubt, he said, that they are dealing with contract killers. This is a methodology, he said, authorities have seen in at least 19 similar style murders in the last three years here and this may make solving the case, so much more difficult.
Either way, experts say, the motive behind the Karaivaz killing remains unclear.
If confirmed as related to the journalist’s work, then it will be the first assassination of a journalist in the European Union since the 2018 murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak in Slovakia.
Karaivaz was a contributor to the Eleftheros Typos newspaper, and he founded the news website bloko.gr, which reported on crime.
Leading officials across the European Union have issued sympathy statements, supporting free speech while urging the government and the authorities in Athens to hunt down the assailants.
The U.S. Embassy in Athens said it would help any effort to defend the sacred right of free speech.
Greek media offices and journalists are frequently targeted by far-left anarchists who routinely strike them in what they claim are attacks against the establishment.
Nevertheless, journalist killings are rare here, raising concerns that freedom of speech in the country that gave birth to democracy may now be in serious peril.