The decision by the Greek Government to close down the national broadcaster is an outrageous attack on democracy, on journalism and on the jobs of 2,700 workers employed by ERT in Greece and has been met with widespread condemnation and serious resistance from Greek workers.
The 2,700 workers at ERT were given only hours’ notice before the government with a heavy hand shut off the transmitters and sent in police to clear the premises. The workers however, bravely defied the attempt to close them down and continued broadcasting online and on digital frequencies. Thousands of people remain outside ERT’s headquarters in Athens today in protest against this brutal decision.
The Greek government announced that it was closing down the public broadcasting organisation’s three TV stations, radio and regional radio stations, satellite emissions and internet portal for approximately three months. They are effectively sacking the entire staff and claim that they will reopen, but with a much-reduced staff.
This decision to make ordinary citizens and workers’ pay for the debt crisis by shutting of vital communications by closing down the state broadcaster and sacking thousands of employees overnight is right wing in the extreme. It is an unprecedented and dangerous manoeuvre reminiscent of a military coup.
The people of Greece in these dark days need to be informed by a reliable source and should not be left with privatised news corporations as their sole source of information. A national broadcaster is often a vital provider of important information regarding the safety and welfare of the general public, in the event of disasters, missing persons, extreme weather warnings and so on. An independent source free from commercial and government dictat is vital to the freedom of the press and to a truly democratic society. Considering the already present danger of far right organisations in Greece this decision has serious repercussions. The announcement did not come after a parliamentary debate, rather it was a decision made at the behest of just two government ministers.
Hundreds of workers remained inside to occupy the headquarters of the ERT last night while thousands gathered outside in solidarity. For now the station is still broadcasting, thanks to the bravery and determination of the workers. Members of the Greek Diaspora are staging protests in cities around the world while a general strike has been called for tomorrow. The NUJ in the UK held a solidarity protest at the Greek Embassy in London today while the Dublin branch will hold a demonstration on Thursday at the Greek Embassy on Pembroke Street at 6.30pm. The Greek Government must be forced to reverse this decision.