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Reporters in Times of Riots

26 January 2011 / 20:01:07  GRReporter
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What was typical for this case was that other smaller groups were active in the small streets around Syntagma Square in parallel and their sole purpose was to induce riots and clashes with police. But if the participants once were young, still faithful to the ideals of the Comintern and the adored Marx, Bakunin and Che Guevara now more and more leftists are willing to follow their example.

The severe economic measures of the government trouble larger part of the Greek society. As result, many otherwise peaceful citizens become part of the slogans such as "Let’s burn the parliament brothel." Messages like "Let’s conquer the parliament peacefully" are exchanged in the blogosphere and e-mails and calls "Let’s break it all" are heard from people who have never participated in protests.

The only difference between them is the ideological justification. Hooded youths with hidden faces still believe in anarchism, members of the Communist party follow the Stalin's line of the main secretary Aleka Papariga and ordinary Greeks simply had enough of parties and politicians and protest against the overall political system, forgetting that they themselves have elected its representatives.

There is no shot or photo worth beating you

Maria S. Topalova


I was tear-gassed for the first time in 2003. I was still a greenhorn then. But I learned to keep out. I experienced a lot of street riots in Athens. The wave of unrest after the arrest of the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, the protests against NATO during the Kosovo war, the chaos in downtown Athens after the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos and now the demonstrations caused by the economic crisis. It doesn’t matter whether I go to a prestigious economic conference or to the next protest rally - I'm a reporter and I have to do my job as a professional. To be the eyes and ears of the readers and viewers and to help them understand and explain what they saw or read.

I try to be the mainstay of my cameraman to be really sure he has a "back". Anarchists despise journalists, but they deeply resent operators and photographers. They are really aggressive to them. However, we try to get closer to them as much as possible, to see, to feel and to know what is happening on the street.There where Molotov cocktails are thrown, stones fly and truncheons crack. We have been beaten so far neither by police, nor by anarchists. But colleagues were beaten before my eyes – by the police and by demonstrators. They came back with broken and burnt cameras.

Our adrenaline goes up along with the adrenaline of the vandals and the special forces and there is always the risk to be exposed to greater danger than it is worth. There is no shot or a photo worth beating you. So, it is very important to know when to step back. This is what I tell my girls at GRReporter. We often talk on the phone when they are at a protest. Each of them has her limit of endurance. It is important not to take undue risks. My biggest fear is any of them not to get hurt.

For my self, I am afraid of being trampled by the crowd. When I feel that the masses begin to move chaotically I leave the battlefield. It takes 2-3 minutes the disorder to return to the limits within which I can get on the right track.  

People often ask me: "The whole demonstration was so peaceful. Why did you show exactly those 5 minutes when the guys with black clothes and hoods appeared and started throwing bombs?" Because the news is the extraordinary, the unusual, the news is what goes beyond the normal course of things. Nobody makes reports that the plane from Athens arrived in Sofia on time. But if it falls...

I go home with a lot of bitterness in my heart after a protest. There is a lot of destructive energy on the street. Destructive forces prevail. Aggression is a way to prove yourself. I wonder why. Something did not work out back in the families of these young boys and girls. Someone has hurt them deeply and then neither school, nor society were able to heal this wound. I am not in sympathy with them but I do not hate them either. For me they are incurable children for whom there is no remedy.

Tags: GreeceUnrestProtestsRiotsJournalistsMedia news
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