Political Violence and the Greek Press
16 Wednesday Jan 2013
Suddenly the Greek media are paying attention to political violence. This is a remarkable new development. For all that journalist have been violently targeted , chemical weapons and beatings are regularly dispensed to peaceful protesters, elected representatives attacked and civilians beaten, stabbed and killed in politically motivated attacks, all that is swept under the media carpet, but now – suddenly – the press have become interested.
If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
Journalists in Greece face increasingly difficult working conditions. Violence has become something which is becoming more and more common. In April, a journalist who had written an article critical of the Golden Dawn was threatened together with her twelve year old daughter, the following month, Konstantinos Bogdanos – a television reporter who had been critical of the Golden Dawn was attacked and beaten by three hooded men. In June, an Israeli journalist was beaten for filming Golden Dawn members attacking an immigrant. A few months later Manolis Vamvounis, a magazine journalist was beaten by members of Golden Dawn while police watched a few metres away and did nothing. In addition to the street violence, the restrictions on reporting have seen journalists arrested and fired for stepping outside the accepted boundaries of state approved reporting. Kostas Vaxevanis, from Hot Doc magazine was arrested for publishing the Leguarde List of wealthy tax evaders which the Greek State had done its utmost to suppress, prompted in no small part because some of the names on the list were very closely associated with high level politicians. Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Katsimi were fire dafter they started analysing the reports in foreign media of the police torture of Greek anti-fascist protesters.
For after all…
Guidelines have been issued to the mass media of what can be said and tolerated and what cannot be tolerated.
Leonidas Chysanthopoulis, Greek Diplomat
In the meantime, leftwing radio stations are raided by the state and left wing printing presses are removed. All this scantily reported in the mainstream press with journalists afraid that should they talk about the harassment and violence that they face that they too may be arrested, beaten or fired. But suddenly, the media are printing lofty statements about press freedom from the very forces which have ignored the beatings, detentions and harassment of journalists.
At the weekend, the homes of five journalists were targetted with incendary bombs. An insurrectionist group called “The Lovers of Lawlessness” claimed responsibility.
In this time of economic crisis, the main objective of the state is to produce a diffuse fear not only of to those who challenge them but also towards the wider “excluded” and “non-privileged” parts of society (e.g. migrants, prostitutes, delinquents, hooligans). All the media make and continually disseminate material which are designed purely for communication purposes. These have become the means to spread fear and suggest that government project is to ensure order and security. The media is the main pillar of this government strategy. They construct virtual culprits while the video screens are filled with images as they bet on the self preservation instincts of “public opinion”.
Responsibility Claim of the Lovers of Lawlessness
(excerpt: translation adapted from Google)
PASOK and the Democratic Left sought to confound the issue by linking these arson attacks with the wider repression of journalists who have been directly and violently attacked by both the Golden Dawn and by the state for exposing its rotten core, while New Democracy sought to make political capital by suggesting that Syriza was implicated urging them to “give up their spoilt children with hoods”. Syriza in their statement, which joined the other parties in condeming the attacks, pointed out that the Government uses such attacks as propaganda to distract from its own repressive and violent agenda.
But it is not just journalists who have been targeted in Greece. Politicians too have been the targets of violence. In a live television broadcast, an elected fascist punched the Communist Party MP, Liana Kanelli in the face. Ilias Kasidiaris immediately left the studio without being apprehended, and was apparently unable to be caught by the Hellenic Police Service only to emerge once the warrant had expired with an attempt to sue the woman he attacked for “unprovoked insults”.
Like Channel 4, the Greek media found the violent assault on a female MP amusing. A few months later, Kanelli found herself confronted by a masked man draped in the Greek flag wearing boxing gloves approaching her menacingly, while on a break from a political discussion show where she was due to appear as a guest. The set up by the satirical show “Synteleia”, reduced Kanelli to tears as she feared another violent assault by fascist elements, forcing her to leave the show.
She was indeed right to fear further attacks by fascists on leftists. Last month the Syriza MP, Dimitris Stratoulis, was targetted and beaten outside a sporting venue. Three men, who identified themselves as Golden Dawn, told him they would kill him then proceeded to beat him, leaving him requiring hospital treatment. The attack was denied by the Golden Dawn, who threatened to sue the MP for defamation for implicating the Golden Dawn. Yet in a recording made by the BBC at a meeting of supporters, the a Golden Dawn spokesman told a laughing, cheering, jeering audience,
First of all, I want to express my displeasure about some of the newer members of Golden Dawn, who are all about shouting and being provocative. Three of them were beating up that poor fellow for half an hour and didn’t even succeed in leaving a lump on his head. That’s shameful.
Again scant coverage of violent physical attacks against leftist members of parliament which left them bruised and traumatised, yet this week the media is awash with the news that shots were fired at the New Democracy headquarters, with one of the bullets landing in the office of Samaras, the Greek Prime Minister. The attack happened at 3am and, predictably, no-one was in the building. No responsibility claim has emerged, yet New Democracy are keen to associate this attack with left elements.
But as Syriza has pointed out, this development is mightily handy for a state which consistantly utilises chemical weapons against peaceful protesters, have introduced watercannons and recently signed a contract with the mercenary firm Blackwater for domestic security. The media spins such state violence, suggesting that protest “turn violent”, implying that such measures are necessary ignoring the state repression and unwarranted attacks on protesters that have made peaceful protest in Greece a frightening and dangerous experience, while those who defend the public from the violence of the state are demonised as dangerous hooligans.
The beatings, stabbings and murders of immigrants in particular, although extended to other “undesirables”, is swept under the carpet. The murder of a Black teenager by racist elements will get at most a few column inches; the torture of anti-fascist demonstrators is barely mentioned in the Greek press; the punching and beating of leftwing MPs are glossed over or made the subject of a joke; fascists aim guns at anti-racist protestors and carry them into the parliament, but bullets from an unknown assailant at a time when there was little chance of injury shot from a distance has suddenly given the press great cause for concern about political violence.
The hypocrisy is rank.