May 10, 2012 · 0 Comments
As reporters from around the world remain in Greece, covering the post-election political turmoil, Greek journalists continue to face intimidation for reporting on the rise of a xenophobic party from the far-right.
Members of Greece’s Golden Dawn party, which took 7 percent of the vote on Sunday, bitterly resent reports that brand them neo-Nazis, even as they sell copies of “Mein Kampf” at their headquarters, wave flags adorned with a symbol that resembles the swastika and make Nazi salutes.
On Tuesday, two unions of Greek journalists denounced threats leveled at reporters who attended the party’s triumphal news conference Sunday night. Video of the event broadcast on Greek television — and later posted on YouTube with English subtitles by a Greek video blogger — showed a party member ordering reporters to stand up as the Golden Dawn leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, entered the room.
Once he was seated before the microphones of the assembled press corps, Mr. Michaloliakos embarked on a tirade against the media, in which he saluted the voters who had rejected the “defamation” of his party by Greek television channels and newspapers.
The Greek Federation of Journalists responded on Tuesday with a statementin which the union said it “warns Hitler nostalgics and especially the ‘brave boys in black T-shirts’ that no journalist will be coerced, threatened and above all terrorized,” the Athens daily Kathimerini reported.
The Athens Union of Journalists, which condemned the silence of some media organizations in the face of the “neo-Nazi” threat to Greece, was even more combative, Reuters reported. “Acting like bouncers, they showed their true colors,” the union wrote. “We are not afraid of you. We will reveal your role. You will not have your way.”
As my colleagues Rachel Donadio and Dimitris Bounias reported last month, Mr. Michaloliakos insisted in an interview that Nazi salutes by Golden Dawn members were not official policy, even though he himself was caught on video making the gesture during an Athens city council meeting last year.
Although Mr. Michaloliakos refused to say whether or not he believed that the Holocaust had happened — telling The Times, “I think all history is written by the winners” — another leading Golden Dawn official, Ilias Kasidiaris, said in an interview: “The main view in Europe is that six million Jews were killed. History has shown that this is a lie.”
Faced with the increasing popularity of a virulently anti-immigrant party, whose motto is, “So we can rid the land of filth,” but still rejects the label neo-Nazi, Greek journalists have been divided on how to respond. As Xenia Kounalaki, an editor at Kathimerini, explained in an article for Spiegel Online, she called on her colleagues to simply stop reporting on Golden Dawn’s campaign in the weeks before the election.
Shaved heads, military uniforms, Nazi chants, Hitler greetings: How should a Greek journalist deal with such people? Should one just ignore them and leave them unmentioned? Should one denounce them and demand that they be banned? One shouldn’t forget that they are violent and have perpetrated several attacks against foreigners and leftists. I thought long and hard about how to write about Golden Dawn so that my article was in no way beneficial to the party.
On April 12, the daily Kathimerini ran my story under the headline “Banality of Evil.” In the piece, I carefully explained why it was impossible to carry on a dialogue with such people and why I thought the neo-Nazi party should disappear from media coverage and be banned. Five days later, an anonymous reply to my article appeared on the Golden Dawn website. It was a 2,500-word-long personal attack in which the fascists recounted my entire career, mocked my alleged foreign roots (I was born in Hamburg) and even, for no apparent reason, mentioned my 13-year-old daughter. The unnamed authors indirectly threatened me as well: “To put it in the mother tongue of foreign Xenia: ‘Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat, kommt Attentat!’” In other words, watch your back.
Most Greeks believe that Golden Dawn has connections to both the police and to the country’s secret service. Nevertheless, I went to the authorities to ask what I should do. I was told that I should be careful. They told me that party thugs could harass me, beat me or terrorize me over the phone. It would be better, they said, if I stopped writing about them.
Journalists who ignored the calls to ignore the party have faced attacks from the other end of the political spectrum. Last month, days after a journalist named Panagiotis Vourhas interviewed the Golden Dawn spokesman, Mr. Kasidiaris, protesters broke into the studio of his station, Epiros TV1, during a live broadcast, and pelted him with yogurt and eggs.
After the protest was quelled, and he had a chance to dry off, Mr. Vourhas returned to explain to viewers that the attack was in response to the station’s previous interview with the Golden Dawn representative, not the discussion with a local politician he was engaged in when the masked intruders raided the set.
By Emma Brown