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The government and journalists from the state broadcaster ERT in a serious skirmish

12 June 2013 / 13:06:23  GRReporter
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The signal of the three channels of the Greek state broadcaster ERT was interrupted shortly before midnight. The announcement of government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou that the public radio and television channels were to be closed shocked Greek society and has given rise to violent protests.

The events evolved at lightning speed after his speech at 6 pm yesterday. The employees of ERT in Athens and Thessaloniki gathered in the buildings which house the state media. They immediately began to call the citizens, organizations and parties to support them in their protest against the government's decision as a result of which it is expected that between 2,656 and 2,800 employees (different media state a different number – author’s note) will be fired.

Gradually, thousands of citizens who oppose the closure of ERT gathered outside the main buildings of ERT on Mesogeion Avenue in Athens and of ERT3 in Thessaloniki.

The studios were constantly giving information about the development of the events. The left opposition parties supported the employees immediately and appeared on the spot to express their solidarity.

The Communist Party had even allowed the employees to use the frequency of its closed TV channel and they continued their live broadcasts from this.

Despite the expectations, the police did not raid the premises of the state media to force the employees to leave them. SYRIZA’s leader Alexis Tsipras had arrived at ERT early in the morning and said that he would meet at noon with President Karolos Papoulias to call him not to put his signature under the Presidential Decree that will put the formal end to the Greek state television we knew until yesterday. Many of the members and supporters of the party are of the opinion that the main opposition party could request early elections.

Photo: tovima.gr

New Democracy’s partners in the ruling coalition had disassociated with the government's decision. PASOK and Democratic Left said they would submit to parliament a joint bill on the reform of ERT, which would seek annulment of the decision on its closure.

According to the Greek online media reporter.gr, the Prime Minister is determined to force Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis to take a clear position as regards the issue. "Vote for PASOK’s bill on ERT or we will announce elections," were Antonis Samaras’ words to the two leaders according to the media. The article states that he will submit for a vote in parliament the bill on the reorganization of ERT, which Ilias Mossialos and Nikos Alevizatos, ministers in the government of George Papandreou, had drawn up in 2011.

The Presidential Decree, which was published yesterday in the Government Gazette, should be passed by parliament within 40 days. According to sources from PASOK and Democratic Left, it is expected that the two parties will express their dissatisfaction with the way in which the state media has been closed but will support the bill and there will be no new elections.

Currently, two channels of ERT, NET from Athens and ET3 from Thessaloniki, are broadcasting via the Internet. In protest, the trade unions of journalists in Greece have announced a 24-hour strike in all media and representatives of the employees in ERT are meeting with representatives of PASOK and Democratic Left.

The atmosphere is tense as the police may take steps to empty the buildings. They have already done so in the buildings where there are transmitters. Protesting employees and citizens are gradually gathering outside ERT in Athens.

At the same time, it is already clear that the purpose of the government is for the new public television to be operational by August 29. The new state media will be called New Greek Radio, Internet and TV (NERIT). According to the government spokesman, it will employ at least 1,000 – 1,200 people and some of the main figures have already been selected on the basis of their recognized expertise. According to Simos Kedikoglou, all current employees of ERT will be fired but those who have been productive will have priority over other candidates for appointment to the new media.

In connection with the political bickering on the topic, he said that Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis had been informed about the events and examined the content of the bill on Sunday.

To be continued

Tags: MediaERTState broadcasterClosureProtestsGovernmentOpposition
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