ATHENS – While Greece’s New Democracy government has kept wraps on a parliamentary probe into a phone bugging scandal and alleged use of spyware, a Reporters Without Borders mission will push for answers.
The Paris-based organization said it would be in Greece from Oct. 9-11 to meet with journalists and authorities not named in the wake of revelations that the phones of PASOK Socialist leader Nikos Androulakis and investigative reporter Thanasis Koukakis were bugged by the National Intelligence Service (EYP.)
Koukakis said Predator spyware was also put on his phone, while Androulakis, also a Member of the European Parliament said an attempt to infect his failed when he didn’t open a text link attachment.
“The right to information in Greece, a key European country, has suffered terrible setbacks. Finding remedies is all the more urgent at a time when the European democracies are confronted with Russia’s propaganda war,” Pavol Szalai, RSF Head of EU/Balkans Desk, told EURACTIV.
He told the site that the trip would concentrate on freedom, independence and sustainability of the press at the Incubator for Media Education and Development (iMedD) International Journalism Week conference.
“At my subsequent meetings with journalists and the authorities, I will discuss the problems, but also possible solutions, while focusing on issues such as the surveillance of journalists and the stalled investigation of the 2021 killing of the reporter Giorgos Karaivaz,” he added.
The World Press Freedom Index for 2022 gave Greece the worst rating for media freedom in the European Union, even over Hungary where Prime Minister Viktor Orban is openly trying to take control of the media.
In Greece, EYP said it has bugged the phones of 15,745 people but can’t reveal any information because it comes under the cover of national security which allows everything to be kept secret from the public.
That has led to some consternation in the EU where European Commissioner Vera Jourova, who helped put together an EU Media Freedom Act proposal that must be ratified by the 27 member states calling for transparency.
“Citizens must know if and why they are under surveillance by the state,” she told the investigative news website insidestory.gr but the government said anyone who publishes details or findings of an investigation by a parliamentary panel that it controls would be prosecuted.
Koukakis earlier told EURACTIV that, “My case exposes how fragile the defence of civil rights in a European democracy can become and how easily, thanks to these highly sophisticated spyware, governments and other parties can breach these rights.”
Besides the RSF mission, a group of European Parliament lawmakers on a panel looking into the use of spyware will be coming to Greece and Cyprus to look into the phone bugging and surveillance.