Greece Falls In Press Freedom

ATHENS – Criticized for trying to muzzle dissidents, Greece has fallen in a world press freedom index again, to 92nd among 197 countries, and with the biggest decline in the world.

Greece’s partisan media was also cited by in the annual Freedom House press ranking and said the Greek media was only “partly free.”

Freedom House said that the fall in the Greek rating was in a “large part” due to the sudden closure of public broadcaster ERT in an “opaque manner” in June 2013 by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

“In addition, the year featured an increase in the number of  libel cases and the use of surveillance against journalists, as well as the non-transparent awarding of telecommunications licenses,” added the NGO.

The government also re-tried investigative journalist Costas Vaxevanis,who had already been acquitted once on charges of invasion of privacy after he revealed the names of 2,062 Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts, but failed as he was cleared again.

Greece has lost 17 points in the press freedom rankings since 2009, which is the biggest decline of all countries. The country is also notorious for having media aligned with political parties and with journalists have side working deals with politicians and business executives.

Much of the country’s media is owned by big business interests pushing their agendas and devoting favorable coverage to the government in return for lucrative ads and contracts.

There are far more newspapers in Athens than any major American city, most of them with low circulations and loss-leaders published by businesses using them for political purposes.

Greece is below Mozambique and just above Lesotho in terms of the freedom of reporting. Greece is also behind Brazil, the Phillippines, Burkina Faso, Peru, Romania, Botswana, El Salvador, Mali, South Africa, and Poland. Cyprus came in 42nd.

Leading the list as having the most press freedom were Scandinavian countries again, led by The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, followed by Belgium, Finland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Denmark, Andorra and Lichtenstein. The United States, where the Obama Administration has been spying on reporters, fell from 23d to 30th.

The decline was driven in part by major regression in several Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Libya, and Jordan; marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in East Africa; and deterioration in the relatively open media environment of the United States, it said.

The group noted that world press freedom was at its lowest in a decade, especially with killings of journalists in war zones and in countries where reporters are targets of governments and critics. Only one in seven people now lives in a country with a free press.