ATHENS – Without noting newspapers who back them, the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA suggested in a political ad that Greek journalists were bribed by the New Democracy government for positive coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientifically and medically speaking, Greece had one of the world’s best records in holding down the number of cases and deaths, and with even SYRIZA during a long lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the virus not interjecting any criticism.
The Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) denounced what it called the “unacceptable blanket vilification” of Greek journalists in the ad through a video showing a reporter showered in money in a newscast about Mitsotakis.
ESIEA said the video was designed to serve SYRIZA’s political agenda, discredited when the Leftists were routed in July 7, 2019 snap elections by the Conservatives after a 4 ½-year reign during which former premier Alexis Tsipras broke anti-austerity vows.
SYRIZA accused the union of “selective sensitivity” to satire while ignoring the government’s “dangerous … covert funding of non-existent media,” which is “dangerous for the freedom of the press and democracy.”
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas has said that the amounts paid to the media will be disclosed. It is common practice by Greek governments to pay media, but SYRIZA accused Mitsotakis of "continuing to hide the list with the sums received.”
The main opposition party accused the prime minister of "ducking" the request to reveal the sums given by "leaking sordid comparisons with what previous governments have done in order to gain time and massage the numbers."
"SYRIZA passed laws so that advertising spending, even that of banks, should be published so that there is full transparency. It neither handed out public funds to non-existent mass media companies, without even a single employee, nor illegally handed out money to sites not on the online media register, nor guiltily hid the list of where this money went," the party's announcement also added.