Reporters Without Borders denounces EU silence on Greek media law – Exit

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Faced with the silence of the European Commission, the international organization for the defense of media freedom Reporters Without Borders called on the European Commission and Parliament to “firmly denounce” the new Greek libel law as “an attack on freedom of the press”.

In November, the Greek parliament passed a law criminalizing “fake news that can cause anxiety and fear in citizens”. Rather than decriminalizing defamation and similar offenses, in line with international best practice and EU recommendations, the Greek authorities have made this loosely defined offense punishable by a heavy fine or up to five years in prison.

Despite several rounds of questions from EURACTIV, the Commission failed to denounce the law. No further comments were received.

In a statement released on Wednesday December 1, RSF said: “While it is legitimate to fight against false information, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, prison sentences have no role to play in the quest for truth. Rather, the Greek authorities should promote reliable news and information at national, European and international level. The necessary tools are already at their disposal.

They clearly called on the EU and the EC to intervene and the “Greek government to revise” the law.

The Greek media landscape raises eyebrows in Brussels

Under article 191 of the Greek Penal Code, public or online dissemination of information that arouses fear or anxiety or “disrupts public confidence in the national economy, defense or public health” is now a criminal offense. In the event of a repeat offense, the minimum sentence is reduced from three months to six months.

The provisions also apply not only to the person disseminating the information, but to the owners and directors of the media and to anyone who shares the links.

RSF noted that the law does not clearly define “false information” in the law, leaving it to the Greek authorities to “prosecute any journalist whose reporting is not to their liking”. They also noted Greece’s track record of “influencing and controlling” the media by funding and bringing public television under its control.

“These attacks on press freedom, as well as the obstacles regularly confronted by journalists covering the migration crisis, are the subject of a mission to Greece by several NGOs, including RSF, in the first half of December.

The organization called on the government to repeal the law and engage in dialogue with the media to fight disinformation.

Bark but no bite

Earlier this year, RSF called on the EU not to tackle the problems of declining media freedom within the European Union and in the candidate countries. Pavo Szalai of RSF said the EU remains a big dog without too much bite on these issues.

Questioned by thousands of journalists and activists in the Western Balkans, the EU has also failed to intervene in Albania’s declining media freedom environment.

The Albanian package, which would place all online media under the ex-judicial surveillance of a body appointed by the government with the right to impose significant fines and block access to certain sites, was initially condemned. by the Commission.

But when they called for Parliament’s withdrawal from the “anti-defamation package” to be a condition for continued EU membership, the Commission refused.

Meanwhile, some fear that Greece will be allowed to pass laws that go against core European values, while other countries, such as Albania and even Malta in 2016, have been told otherwise.

At a time when attacks on journalists are on the rise in Europe and Greece has yet to solve the murder of investigative journalist Giorgos Kariavaz who was gunned down outside his home in Athens in 2021, this new law is added to a growing list of media concerns. freedom in the country.

Regarding the new law, RSF concludes: “Prison sentences have no role to play in the search for the truth. Rather, the Greek authorities should promote reliable news and information at national, European and international level. The necessary tools are already at their disposal.

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