The role of the journalist is not to promote the ideas and causes s/he espouses – except in the special space in a newspaper known as the editorial and op-ed pages.
In the news sections, and at press conferences, it is not his/her role to fight as a fanatical supporter of a cause, no matter how noble it might be. To do this, s/he must erase his/her status as a journalist and go down into the political arena, where decisions are made.
And while it is the role of a journalist to ask ‘tough’ questions of a politician who s/he thinks is either lying or handling power improperly, it is another matter to swear at a politician, especially at the Prime Minister of a foreign country.
One such extreme example is what happened recently at the Maximos Mansion of Greece during a press conference of the Prime Ministers of Greece and the Netherlands.
There, a Dutch ‘journalist’ asked Kyriakos Mitsotakis the following ‘question’:
“Prime Minister Mitsotakis, when will you finally stop lying? Lying about pushbacks, lying about what is happening to refugees in Greece? Please stop underestimating my intelligence and the intelligence of all journalists in the world.”
Of course, this is not a journalist’s question to a politician. It is an unprecedented, uninformed attack by a militant ‘journalist’ in favor of the refugees passing through Turkey to Greece.
Moreover, this ‘question’ did not include any evidence. There was not even a reference to credible sources to substantiate her opinion. By the same token, one could call her ‘crazy’ without presenting any evidence. But would that be right?
In any case, it is clear that this ‘journalist’ has embraced the statements of Turkish officials who accuse Greece of ‘pushing back’ the refugees into Turkey, who – often with the help of the Turkish authorities – try to cross into Greece.
However, both the reaction and the response of the Greek Prime Minister were impressive.
After letting her finish her long insulting statement, he answered her calmly, and with personal and national dignity:
“What I will not accept are insults in this room, to my face and to the Greek people. I will not accept accusations and expressions that are not based on evidence, at a time when this country is facing a migration crisis of unprecedented intensity, and which has saved hundreds if not thousands of people at sea.”
There are limits to tolerance. Analogously, politicians who indulge in such crude insults leave the door open for much worse in the future against themselves. And, above all, it leaves the door open for the insults to be hurled back at the people they represent.
If this ‘journalist’ believed that by the way she acted she was promoting the cause in which she is enlisted – an otherwise serious, humanitarian cause – she is wrong.
She hurt her cause, because personal, outrageous attacks do not arouse sympathy in the name of the cause for which they are made, but antipathy.