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Politics

Greek Journalists Want COVID-19 “Fake News” Law Pulled Back

November 14, 2021

ATHENS – A new law aimed at trying to stop the spread of misinformation or “fake news” about the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-vaxxers isn’t clear enough and should be withdrawn, the Journalists Union of Athens Daily Newspaper (ESIEA) said.

The union said it could be used against journalists and hold them criminally liable for expressing opinions about the health crisis as Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been accused of trying to stifle them.

Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras said that Greece must “adapt to the realities” of today’s world and seek to punish those people responsible for spreading false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, reported Euronews.

The law makes it a crime to share false information about public health and has led already to a probe of clerics on Mt. Athos to check whether they have been urging people not to be vaccinated and to reject health measures.

Any citizen who publicly or online makes or repeats false rumors that are “likely to worry or frighten citizens or to undermine public confidence” can be held liable and face up to three months in jail

The ESIEA said it understood the need to combat false COVID-19 information, but stated that the proposed bill could limit the right to press freedom.

“Journalists run the risk of being held criminally liable because, by expressing a personal view on specific issues, they may cause concern or fear to the citizens,” the ESIEA said in a statement.

“The wording contained in the amended provisions … is virtually unlimited, since it is not defined anywhere what is news that is likely to cause anxiety or fear among citizens,” the organization added, the report said.

“It must be clearly defined what the law defines as false news, which is capable of causing concern or fear,” the journalists group added.

A previous version of the law had previously needed proof that the spreading of false information had caused public anxiety and the union said it has told the European Federation of Journalists about the law and will also forward information to the European Parliament.

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