ERT: Appeal to foreign media and journalists

In News on June 12, 2013 at 10:27 am
pic by @polyfimos

pic by @polyfimos

Yesterday the Greek government (primarily New Democracy party, without the support of coalition partners PASOK and DIMAR) announced they would shut down ERT, Greece’s national broadcaster. The argument was that ERT is marred with corruption and that it operates at a cost to the public sector. First, ERT is profitable, as its employees testify. Second, the New Democracy spokesman Kedikoglou who announced the decision and raged about “corruption” was the same politician that has requested the hiring of 23 of “his” people in ERT!

More importantly, the decision was not approved by the parliament, but was implemented through a ministerial decree (which is a violation of the Constitution and Greek legislative procedure). The decree is now at the office the President of the Hellenic Republic and parties opposing it have contacted him NOT to sign it. Neo-nazi Golden Dawn and New Democracy are the only 2 parties that have openly supported the decision (although it seems coalition partners were aware of it).

The decision was announced during the day and at 11pm riot police went to Mount Ymittos and turned off the digital and analogue signals. ERT was still broadcasting and used TVE (Spanish), and 902 channels (owned by the Communist Party), among others. A couple of hours later DIGEA (private operator of digital signal in Greece) turned off the 902 channel, claiming it should not broadcast ERT!

ERT employs more than 2500 people and operates channels across Greece, in remote areas where other broadcasters have no signal. It also broadcasts across the world, informing Greeks living abroad and providing a live link to them with Greek culture and “home”. Protesters gathered outside the ERT building until 3 am in the morning and they are gathering again today.

ERT is the only broadcaster that actually operates legally in Greece, with all other TV channels lacking an official permit from the state.

Here in London, a demonstration has been organised to support ERT employees, at 5pm London time at the Greek Embassy  W11 3TP.

This is the facebook link

This is the announcement by the European Federation of Journalists.

This is the announcement by the European Broadcasting Union.

This is the announcement of the National Union of Journalists in London.

This is a petition to stop the shutdown of Public Television in Greece.

Please follow #ERT on twitter to find out more.

Please write about this and support us, we have no other outlet except internet and foreign broadcasters.

This is about freedom of speech, the right to independent information and democracy itself.

Thank you in advance for your support.

IMF’s “mea culpa”

In News on June 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Last week, the IMF admitted it had been wrong in its predictions about the consequences austerity would cause to Greece and that some of the reforms imposed as part of the loan agreement had been too harsh. (See for instance p.6 of this IMF paper, where the IMF reports mentions that “the macroeconomic assumptions at the initiation of the program proved optimistic” as well as this IMF paper)

So, let’s recap on what has happened in Greece in the past 4 years.

  • Greece is now in its 6th year of recession.
  • GDP has contracted 22% between 2008-2012, one of the deepest peacetime recessions in industrialised economies GreatDepression_Greece




  • Unemployment is now at 28% unemployment




  • Youth unemployment is over 60%
  • Greece’s debt to GDP was 129% at the end of 2009 and prior to the IMF loan agreement. At the end of 2012, it stood at 157%. The aim is to bring it down to 124% by 2020


  • Homelessness has sharply increased. Partly due to the important role family plays in Greece, Athens was unlike other European capitals where homelessness is visible in the streets. In 2009, Athens had about 2,000-3,000 homeless people. In 2012 the number was 40,000 (for more info, see this article).
  • National minimum wage has been decreased by 22% and 32% for the young. It was reduced from €780 gross a month at 25% and 32% as of 1.1.2012. It went down to €586 gross and €511 for workers 15-25 years old, irrespectively of education and skills.
  • Pensions of public servants have been slashed by 40%.
  • Increase of suicides. Until 2008 Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, with 2.8 suicides per 100 000 inhabitants. Statistics released in 2011 by the Greek ministry of health show a 40% rise in death by suicide between January-May compared to the same period in 2010 (for more info see this EP discussion and this article).
  • The national health budget has been cut by 40% since 2008. As of January 2014, hospitals will also collect a fee of 25€ for each inpatient care, for services which were previously provided for free (see Ministry of Health’s presentation for more)
  • Expenditure for mental health has been cut by 50%. As of December 2012, employees in the mental health sector had not been paid for 6 months.
  • Increase in HIV/Aids; The incidence of HIV/Aids among intravenous drug users in central Athens soared by 1,250% in the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the head of Médecins sans Frontières Greece
  • Rise of malaria: Malaria is becoming endemic in the south for the first time since the rule of the colonels, which ended in the 1970s, after mosquito-spraying programs were slashed in southern Greece
  • Infant mortality has risen by 40%.
  • Hospitals are forced to cancel operations (for more, watch this short film by Aris Chatzistefanou)

The above provide a snapshot of the situation in Greece, not to mention the rise of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, which has entered the Greek parliament and attacks and stabs immigrants, with the cooperation of the Hellenic police (see more here  and here).

I guess it’s ok, since the IMF said they are sorry about the mess, as they had to prevent contagion of the Greek sovereign debt crisis to the rest of the Eurozone. Although it was clear from the beginning that the IMF’s technocratic approach was indifferent to any social cost, it’s ok, they are having second thoughts, even now.

Of course, the Greek government at the time could have resisted signing the loan agreement proposed by the IMF and the EU. There are many Greek technocrats, university professors, economists and experts around the world, which could have been brought forward to make a counter-proposal [and they did, see for instance here, but they were dismissed without second thought]. The Greek government could then have negotiated a different solution which would have been less painful to the Greek people and society. And how knows, maybe that solution would have included a fairer allocation of the costs of lending to high-risk Greece, rather than blame it all on the “lazy Greeks that don’t pay taxes and retire at 50”.

But fortunately for foreign institutions like the IMF and governments, they have always found eager collaborators among the Greek elite, who have been more than willing to disregard the country’s and its peoples’ interest in favour of a “good boy” pat and a cookie from Europe and other foreign “partners”.

The right to disobedience (or Of Greece’s squats)

In News on January 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm

In December 2012, Hellenic police evicted squatters in the Villa Amalias building in central Athens, located at the crossing of Acharnon and Heyden str. The building belongs to the Hellenic Schools Buildings Organisation. The squat has been going on for 22 years. On 9 January 2012, the squatters re-occupied the villa (video) and the police arrested them. They are taken to court today, 10 January.

Later on 9 January, Hellenic police raided a second squat, located at the crossing of 61 Patission ave. and Skaramaga str, the Skaramaga squat. This building belongs to the Sailors’ Pension Fund (NAT) and had remained empty for 10 years. The squat began in 2009. Here are pictures from the squat in the building, which includes a bike workshop, a dance room, a library, a sewing workshop and a rock climbing training board.

Greek mainstream media are framing the issue as if the squats were army headquarters for terrorists, with one journalist caught live calling the squatters “little shits” (video in Greek). The main angle adopted by mainstream journalists is that the squatters had no right to be in the building(s) in the first place, that this is illegal and that the squatters are destroying these neighbourhoods and the buildings.

Naturally, there are many who are convinced by the “legal” argument. Now, here are some other facts:

George Papaconstantinou is an ex Finance  Minister who has been accused for manipulating the so-called Lagarde list, a catalogue of Greeks that hold accounts in Switzerland (and could be tax evaders) and removing the names of members of his family (more here). He has not been arrested.

Meanwhile, Greeks are called upon to pay exorbitant taxes each year, additional taxes, leading many to poverty, migration or homelessness.

In addition, there have been hundreds of incidents which implicates the police in exercising unwarranted and excessive violence to demonstrators and to immigrants – the latest one today by BBC (here and here) . These are often not investigated and if they are, it is after years. The Minister for Public Order, Nikos Dendias has promised to look into the issue but no progress has been made (more here).

One can support or not the squatters.

But there comes a point where you have to take a stand.

And in Greece 2013, you can either be with the current government or against it.

All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.

Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience (1849)