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SYRIZA expels a German journalist pressing Tsipras with awkward questions

30 July 2013 / 19:07:10  GRReporter
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In an article using as a title the first part of the German proverb, "If you do not want to be my brother ... (I'll break your head)", correspondent of the German edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for South East Europe Michael Martens describes how and why he was expelled from the headquarters of SYRIZA after an unsuccessful interview with leader Alexis Tsipras.

The journalist has attached the audio recording of the interview and the subsequent publication in the newspaper, which is connected with the main opposition party in Greece. He describes Avgi as a "party newspaper", comparing it with the German Bayernkurier edition, which is published by the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU).

According to Michael Martens, the interview lasted 7 minutes and 50 seconds during which he was able to ask five questions before the leader of SYRIZA interrupted him and before he was expelled. At the beginning of the interview, he asked Alexis Tsipras whether he had a sense of humour. Then he connected the reply with his second question, namely whether he considered as a satire the cartoon showing Angela Merkel talking to Adolf Hiller which had been published by Avgi newspaper. Alexis Tsipras replied that satire could not be restricted, giving as examples the publications of the German editions Der Spiegel and Focus about the Greeks and Greece. "In both countries satire contains a subtle sense of humour which is often unfair to the politically correct thought, which must govern the relationship between the two nations," he said.

In his next question, Martens stated that representatives of SYRIZA often say that Germany aims to create a Fourth Reich and call former and present Prime Ministers, namely George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras, "Kuisling" (i.e. quislings – author’s note). Alexis Tsipras replied in a more serious tone, stating that the journalist was not well prepared as these definitions were used by the nationalist right wing rather than by SYRIZA.
"In SYRIZA we think that the problem is not in the relations between the two countries but that it is European and therefore, we want to find a European solution. SYRIZA does not agree with the position of Mrs. Merkel. These policies destroy not only Greece but the whole of Europe," stated Alexis Tsipras.

In his article, Michael Martens comments, "The potential future prime minister of Greece is talking quietly and calmly, but the expression on his face and his body language are showing that he is angry," adding, "Perhaps he knows that his words and the unutterable comparisons with the Nazis that the newspaper of his party uses are wrong. And just a cursory glance at Avgi newspaper makes this clear. This is demonstrated not only by cartoons depicting a telephone conversation between Merkel and Hitler," the journalist notes, referring to articles published by Avgi and to statements of Panos Kamenos, leader of the Independent Greeks party. "The left populist Tsipras and the right populist Kamenos are collaborating with each other - they are living in similar worlds," he writes.

The penultimate question of the interview is precisely related to this. "Since you are saying that such statements belong only to the nationalists, why are you flirting with semi-fascist parties such as Independent Greeks"? "Flirting with. ..?" asked Tsipras. "With semi-fascist parties" the journalist repeated. "Again, you are not well informed. You cannot determine as semi-fascist a party that is represented in the Parliament and has a strong democratic presence in the political life. Although we have totally different views from them, on many issues, it is not acceptable for a party which has a politically correct position regarding Mrs. Merkel to be described as semi-fascist. I would like to ask you to change the definition in your question," replied the leader of the Greek opposition.

"Tsipras is right," Martens states in his article. "The word 'semi-fascist' is not appropriate, it is a silly exaggeration. The definition of 'populist right wing' is more acceptable regarding the particular party. A few days after the interview, I submitted to Alexis Tsipras a written explanation of the choice of my words. However, this was not the problem. The fifth question was the cause for my expulsion. It was, "In June 2012 you had said that the parties that participated in the government, namely New Democracy and PASOK, had pulled down the national flag and had handed it over to Angela Merkel. At least this is how the media presented your statements. Could you explain what that means?"

"Was it in June?" asked Alexis Tsipras. "According to Kathimerini newspaper, in June 2012 you had said that New Democracy and PASOK had pulled down the national flag and had handed it over to Merkel. If your words were cited correctly, and I could not know if this was so, what does that mean?", Martens repeated, to which he received the answer, "I do not remember saying anything like that."

"With this phrase, Mr. Tsipras had put an end to the interview and complained that the questions were malicious, adding that he had never claimed that the Greek governments had handed over the national flag to Mrs. Merkel," reads Martens’ article. Then subsequently he specifies that a video of Alexis Tsipras’ main election speech in June 2012 and a communication issued by the press office of SYRIZA prove just the opposite.

Tags: PoliticsMediaAlexis TsiprasInterviewMichael MartensFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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