31 Jul 2020 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 23 Jul 2020 n° 85/2020 Greece
Critical Greek Media Excluded or Side-Lined from State Funding Package during Covid-19
Greek media critical of the government were excluded or side-lined from a €20 million financial support scheme during the Covid-19 pandemic. An analysis showed that many outlets perceived as “opposition” media in Greece received disproportionately lower levels of advertising revenue from the public health awareness campaign compared to more government-friendly media, despite the fact that many had higher circulation and readership. As the clearest example, Documento, a weekly investigative newspaper, was excluded entirely from state funding. Its editor and publisher alleged this was in clear retaliation for its critical coverage and recent investigations into the leadership of the ruling New Democracy party. When later questioned about why Documento had been excluded, government spokesman Stelios Petsas justified the decision by saying that media outlets were excluded for failing to meet several criteria, including not spreading “fake news” about the pandemic. Documento strongly deny this. The weekly newspaper, which specialises in investigative reporting and is known for being critical of the New Democracy government and the Prime Minister, was the only major media outlet excluded from the emergency funding scheme. The campaign was to include print publications, television channels, radio stations, websites, and social network platforms. To distribute the state funding, the government hired the private multinational advertising company, Initiative Media. When the funding was announced, Documento was excluded entirely. Meanwhile, an 18-page list of 1,232 outlets that did receive financial aid, instead included more than 200 digital entities not listed in the country’s Online Media Register, including inactive or non-existent websites or obscure blogs with little or no readers. This full list was only released by the government after sustained pressure from media and civil society. It showed that many news media friendly towards the government received disproportionately large amounts of money, leading to accusations that the government was distorting the media landscape while undermining freedom of the press and pluralism.
- IPI/MFRR joint statement on misuse of funding:"Greece urged to ensure fair and transparent media support scheme"
- Report by The Press Project: "Λιγότερο από το 1% στον αντιπολιτευόμενο Τύπο για το «Μένουμε Σπίτι»"
- Article by Documento editor-in-chief Thanasis Karampatsos:"Opaque Government Spending and Vindictiveness in Greek Mass Media"
31 Jul 2020
Reply from the Greek Authorities