ATHENS – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, accuses Greece of attempting to suppress human rights groups that protect asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants by using smear campaigns, threats, and physical assaults, according to Relief Web. Lawlor conducted an investigation on the status of human rights defenders in Greece in June 2022 and presented her findings to the UN Human Rights Council, delivering a scathing assessment of the situation.
“(H)uman rights lawyers, humanitarian workers, volunteers and journalists [working on migration], have been subjected to smear campaigns, a changing regulatory environment, threats and attacks and the misuse of criminal law against them, to a shocking degree,” she wrote, the site said.
That came as the New Democracy government has denied repeated claims by human rights groups, activists, major media and Turkey that it’s been pushing back refugees and migrants at sea and on land.
Under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, Turkey is supposed to contain more than 4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.
They use Turkey as a jumping-point to get to EU countries, mostly Greek islands and trying to sneak through the fenced and guarded land border along the Evros River as Greece has frantically been trying to keep them out.
Lawlor also took shots at the government for what she said was trying to muzzle any critical media or journalists, some of whom said their phones were bugged and infiltrated with spyware, which the government denied using.
“News reports that are inconvenient or unflattering for the government, including reporting on serious human rights violations, do not get sufficient coverage on many media outlets,” the report said.
“Journalists have also faced criminal lawsuits and strategic lawsuits against public participation for their investigative reporting on corruption and environmental pollution,” she also said.
Greece fell 38 positions within a year in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 report on the Press Freedom Index to 108 out of 180 countries, making it the lowest-ranked European Union country for press freedom, the site also noted.