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After Crime Reporter's Murder, Greek Journalist Says Life Threatened

Αssociated Press

File- Kostas Vaxevanis outside a courtroom at the Athens Appeals Court on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – As police are investigating the April 9 killing of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, gunned down outside his home, another noted investigative journalist said he's received death threats as well.

The Athens Prosecutor’s Office ordered a preliminary investigation of allegations made by journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, who publishes the highly-followed site Documento that someone is out to kill him, said Kathimerini.

On his site, he said that had gotten information earlier in April that a figure cited in news reports and is being investigated, minor TV presenter Menios Fourthiotis, wanted him and a colleague killed.

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said that police measures have been taken for Vaxevanis’ protection as authorities are probing provocative TV presenter Menios Fourthiotis, who had been assigned 12 police bodyguards claiming his life was at risk.

The detail was pulled after a public outcry over why a minor TV figure had been given such elaborate protection because of a fire at the guard box outside his home and the torching of a car outside the TV station.

Police sources at the time told the paper neither incident was a threat to his safety and the police union was opposed to providing him such massive protection not even given government officials.

The New Democracy government didn't explain why Fourthiotis was being given apparent special treatment but his legal representative, Nikos Agapinos, told the paper his client has been categorized as a “vulnerable target” on at least eight occasions by authorities.

Greece has fallen in media freedom rankings from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which cited the government trying to control the narrative, as New Democracy claimed its predecessor, the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA was trying to do.

Vaxevanis in March said an arrest warrant was issued for him after his site published published the full text of a lawsuit lodged against him personally by 22 police officers, with their names on its front page, allegedly being investigated for torturing a young activist.

He was not taken into custody but the site Open Democracy said even the threat of being arrested further undermined the freedom of the press in Greece, which RSF said is worse for journalists than even authoritarian governments such as Hungary.

Open Democracy said, “There has been an alarming rise in violent incidents amid reports of unprovoked attacks by police officers against both protesters and bystanders. Internal investigations by the police into such incidents have rarely resulted in punishments for officers, or put an end to such methods.”

Karaivaz was also a veteran who looked into corruption, including among the police, who said he was likely killed on the orders of an organized crime mob which he regularly reported on.

Vaxevanis said he was visited on April 6, three days before the Karaivaz murder, by a man he didn't identify but whom he said warned him he was in danger and that a colleague of the journalist's, Vangelis Triantis, was present.

“He told us that Menios Fourthiotis, for whom we had done serious revelations in the (Documento) newspaper, was in search of someone in the "underworld" to execute a contract for him.

“The contract was for him to shoot against Fourthiotis’ residence in order to show that Fourtiotis was in danger, and also to "hit" me, and another journalist, whose name he couldn't remember,” he also added.

“I know that we live in a corrupt state, which one cannot trust. Just last week, we had a front page on Documento about the mafia consisting of corrupt police officers and executors. It is the road connecting the sewers of crime with the penthouses of power,”  he also said.

He said that he's speaking out in the hope that it will protect him but that he doesn't expect the police will help or protect him because of his critical reporting “against corruption itself.”

He added: “We know that our only real power and protection is the people, regardless of political beliefs, who want to live in a democratic state that has no ties to the parastate.”