Photo reporter Marios Lolos in a previous "skirmish" with police
The news was shocking anyway. "An elderly man committed suicide on Syntagma Square shortly before 9 this morning." Before television crews were able to reach the scene of the tragedy, social media were already buzzing. "Before shooting himself, the man shouted that he was doing it so as not to burden his children," "It was not a suicide, but political assassination, for which the policy of the memorandum and the politicians, who exercise it, are responsible," and similar comments filled the social media.
A few hours later, the dying note appeared in which 77-year-old Dimitris Christoulas explains that he took his life to avoid digging in the garbage for food. Some journalists who were trying to find out whether the note was genuine were charged with suspicion.
At 5 pm, the call to organize a protest at the place of the suicide had already received the support of dozens of discontented Greeks. Then, a picture of "statements" by famous journalists of leading Greek media appeared. As was clarified, these were the things that they "would write in tomorrow's editions" on the occasion of the suicide of the 77-year-old retiree. The case would not be important if the specified journalists were not anyway under the fire of supporters of the left political wing because of their critical view of the developments in the country. Thus, the statements attributed to them were in a similar spirit of criticism as to the suicide.
"The whole thing started as a joke. I do not know exactly by whom. But I think that it was Avgi newspaper's journalist Angelos Tsekeris, who dared to joke in a tasteless manner. I'm not absolutely certain that he started it, but I saw that many users have shared it through his profile.
These are things that we would have written the next day. However, all that they attributed to me and several colleagues of mine as our future statements were printed on a picture while the comment "they will write this tomorrow" was written as text below. But as we know, when you send a photo on Facebook, this does not happen with the text. As a result, many users took it all at its face value. I knew nothing about this until a colleague called to ask me if I had made such statements," said to GRReporter one of the falsely accused journalists of the big Greek daily Kathimerini, Pasxos Mandravelis.
"Here we are faced with two basic questions: First, a journalist cannot write based on what someone might think. But I think you cannot be joking when a person has committed suicide. The second thing is that since this story has developed in this way, you should try to clarify things. I am not saying that my colleague's intentions were bad. But I think he acted carelessly."
After expressing his surprise at the opinion ascribed to him, the journalist began publishing messages from users in the social media, appealing to him to prove that he had never expressed it.
"I received threatening messages too. Look, in every society, not only in the Greek one, there are many foolish people. They use these cases as an opportunity to express their discontent and to appear as rebels. In today's article, I am writing about the beating of the director Stathis Livathinos, because his appearance is reminiscent of a journalist who some left wing representatives define as "informer", "parrot" and other far left epithets. The situation now is very dangerous and we should all be very careful."
Two days after the tragic incident, it is clear that the suicide did not actually have financial obligations. His daughter, who is a journalist, was not willing to give more information, despite the intense rumours that he had serious health problems. She said that what matters is the message of her father in his dying letter.
Syntagma Square again became the meeting point of discontented citizens, although their number is relatively small so far. Last night’s protest would have ended almost imperceptibly, if several members of the riot forces had not decided to act as the "strongest of the day."
I asked Pasxos Mandravelis to comment on their attack on the media representative, during which the president of the union of photographers in Greece Marios Lolos was seriously injured. After a police officer hit him on the head with a baton, while he had turned his back on him, Marios was taken to hospital, where they established severe cranial trauma. Today he had an operation.
"I do not think the attack was directed against the press. I think that because the police are the other side of ignorance that exists in this country, they beat whomever they can. Police officers do not distinguish between journalists, ordinary demonstrators and anyone else. They just attack and are not interested in anything. At one point, we must learn to distinguish things in this country. This applies to all: from the authorities to the demonstrators and journalists. By this, I mean that they had no plan to attack the media. Anyway, this goes back to the police like a boomerang. Just in their ranks, there are young people who are not quite intelligent. I am not able to know the mental skills of their superiors, but they should know that they cannot attack without a reason. Police have to apply moderate violence under the law. This is the so called legitimate state violence. When there is any reason to exercise violence, this is the job of the police. Violence, however, must have a specific purpose and be accurately defined. It is impossible to beat everyone, with or without a cause."