Complaints from media freedom groups that Greece’s New Democracy government is targeting journalists and news outlets deemed unfriendly is echoed by findings that Greeks don’t have faith in mainstream news sources with political agendas.
In a feature by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN)about allegations of Facebook bias in Greece, reporter Alex Katsomitros noted that the lack of trust during an age of social media and partisan bloggers extends to major sites too.
According to the 2021 Digital News Report by the Oxford-based Reuters Institute, only about 33 percent of Greeks trust news reports, similar to Bulgaria but better only than France, Slovakia and Hungary within the European Union.
Only 25 percent believe what they see on TV, according to a Eurobarometer survey published this year, the lowest rate in the EU but no explanation why they watch then, or if they look for stations that agree with their beliefs and not neutral sites.
The 21st Century has seen people turn away from newspapers and major TV stations in favor of sources that reinforce their thoughts even if it’s at odd with science, statistics and demonstrated truths they don’t believe despite that.
The Reuters Institute found that the average survey respondent in Greece uses more digital news sources per week than respondents from all other 46 countries sampled, other than Kenya. Some 69 percent, get their news via social media, a much higher share than most countries surveyed.
Greece has a rabid anti-vaxxer and anti-mask segment opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations and health measures and vocal and sometimes violent groups in a country where most of the media aligns itself with political parties it backs.
Greece ranked 70th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index published by watchdog Reporters Without Borders, above only Malta, Bulgaria and Hungary in the EU, a dismal standing given Hungary’s attempt to squash independent media.
The report noted that in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold that Twitter users in Greece used the hashtag #Boycott Greek Media to protest the way that mainstream media covered an incident of police violence in Athens, with reports suggesting the police had been provoked.
“Young people have become particularly disillusioned with what they perceive to be a corrupt and sclerotic media landscape, and see social networks as the antidote,” the site said, although those outlets are often single-minded and biased.
The report said that Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called social media a “threat to democracy” spreading disinformation but a law aimed at quelling that about the pandemic provides penalties for journalists and publishers too.
Lawyer Aimilia Givropoulou of Homo Digitalis, a Greek NGO promoting digital rights, and an accredited parliamentary assistant at the European Parliament, said traditional media in Greece had squandered the trust they once enjoyed.
“I wouldn’t trust our media, because their owners or their families are linked to members of the government or their families,” Givropoulou told BIRN. “This is where disinformation comes from, not from a digital space that resembles a village public square where anyone can say anything.”