Greece Halves the Number of National TV Broadcasting Licenses

Update: 06 Dec 2018 Resolved
Year 21 Sep 2016 Country Greece Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
21 Sep 2016 Greece Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

On 30 August 2016, in accordance with a recent law which reduces to four the number of national TV licenses issued to private broadcasters, the Greek government launched an auction for four out of the currently operating eight private national TV broadcasting licenses. The Government claimed that this process would restore order to a sector mired in debt and discredited due to its political links, by cracking down on corruption and enabling better regulation. After a three-day bidding process, on 2 September, the four 10-year licenses were successfully awarded. The process has drawn criticism from broadcasters and opposition, who claimed the government is trying to crackdown on the pluralism of the media. In February 2016, the European Commission expressed serious concerns about this new law putting media journalism at risk. The auction will lead to the closure within 90 days of the four TV existing operators which failed to secure a license, including some of the largest TV operators in Greece. According to the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (JUADN) about 1,800 journalists, technical staff and employees risk losing their job and another 3,000 media workers employed in the media industry would be impacted. The JUADN expresses serious concerns about this new law putting media pluralism at risk and preventing the free flow of ideas and the independence of broadcasters.

Resolved On 6 December 2018, considering that the Council of State ruled the TV licence law unconstitutional and that a new tender was launched by the competent independent authority, the National Council for Radio and Television (ESR), the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

15 Jan 2018 : In January 2018, following a new auction launched by the competent independent authority, the National Council for Radio and Television (ESR), six media groups have applied to get TV national licenses in Greece, in the wake of the decision of the Council of State of 13 January 2017 which ruled out that the previous licensing procedure had been flawed from the outset, having sidestepped ESR, the competent independent authority.
28 Oct 2016 : On 26 October 2016, the Council of State ruled the TV licence law unconstitutional.

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On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

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