19 Feb 2019 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 19 Feb 2019 Greece

Athens Review of Books faces risk of closure after a politician in defamation case obtained a freeze on its bank accounts

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner AEJ
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Partner AEJ
The literary, cultural and historical journal the Athens Review of Books (ARB) is at risk of being forced to close. A former Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, has sued the magazine for defamation, for publishing a reader’s letter in 2017, which described Kotzias as a “gauleiter of Stalinism”. The ex-Minister demanded damages of 250,000 euros. He won the lawsuit and the Court awarded him 22,000 euros but, additionally, blocked ARB’s revenues from the press distribution agency and froze the bank accounts of its publisher and chief editor.

The magazine appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that last year Mr Kotzias publicly acknowledged that he had served the ‘Stalinist left’. Meanwhile, the serious risk that the ongoing action will put a leading European cultural publication out of business has prompted an appeal by hundreds of eminent international academics and writers. They have called on top European Union figures, namely the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, to do everything in their power to save the ARB from the threat of closure.

Press freedom advocates have further argued that the persecution of the ARB is an abuse of the ability that Greek law affords to politicians to file lawsuits against the press and request excessive sums of money; and that the latitude provided by Greek law in such circumstances allows politicians to intimidate the press and deter political criticism.
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