Greece Urged to Drop Investigation Into Journalists Summoned as Suspects

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Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform urged Greece to drop investigation into two journalists summoned as suspects for their reporting, and to uphold the protection of journalistic sources.

The Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform has called on Greece to “drop the investigation” into Greek journalists Kostas Vaxevanis, and Vangelis Triantis for their report on mismanagement of public funds and asked it to “uphold the protection of journalistic sources”.

The Athens Prosecutor’s Office in early November summoned the publisher of the media outlet Documento Vaxevanis and journalist Triantis to testify as suspects for violating official secrecy due to their investigation of the state’s public procurements during the pandemic.

“Investigative journalism is being criminalized. It is a clear attempt to intimidate any journalist who will want to do their job in the future in similar cases and is essentially a blow against our country’s freedom of the press,” Triantis told BIRN.

In February 2023, Documento published part of the audit report of the Economic Crimes Enforcement Agency, SDOE. The report revealed the direct contracts awarded by the then-Secretary General of Anti-Crime Policy, Sofia Nikolaou, aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. SDOE’s conclusion was that the state lost €2 million.

The Economic Crime Prosecutor commissioned the SDOE audit after the opposition SYRIZA party filed a criminal complaint against Nikolaou in May 2021. The prosecutor closed the case, outlining that SDOE’s conclusions were not scientifically acceptable, there was no damage to the state, and there were no indications of possible over-invoicing.

One day after the publication of Vaxevanis’s and Triantis’s report, the Deputy Prosecutor at the Supreme Court and former head of the Economic Crime Prosecutor’s Office, Christos Bardakis, asked the Athens Prosecutor’s Office to investigate how the SDOE report came into their hands.

“The pro-government media here in Greece is currently silent about … cases like those where the prosecution of journalists is attempted. There is a silence in cases of journalists not favored by the government,” Triantis claimed.

“I am glad that the Council of Europe, international media organizations, and BIRN, are raising the issue; it is very important for us because here in Greece, the freedom of the press does not work, and there are serious operational issues regarding the rule of law and the protection of journalists,” he added.

The initial findings of a report published on September 28 by eight international media freedom organisations said that press freedom in Greece was under “sustained threat” from the impact of the “Predatorgate” spyware surveillance scandal, abusive lawsuits and physical threats against journalists, as well as economic and political pressures on media.

Vaxevanis and Triantis are due to testify on 20 November. The court is to decide whether to bring criminal charges against them.

Source : Balkaninsight