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Newspapers on a kiosk at Omonoia square in Athens, Greece on October 19, 2022. © 2022 Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via AP Images

For the second year in a row, Greece came last among European Union countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index. Problems include a major ongoing surveillance scandal, government interference in media, abusive lawsuits, and an overall unsafe working environment for journalists.

Government Spokesperson Akis Skertsos rushed to dismiss RSF as “unreliable,” but concerns about curbs on media freedom and an increasingly hostile environment for civil society in Greece are not new. They have been piling up for some time, raising the alarm about the rule of law in the country.

The European Commission warned last year in its rule of law assessment of Greece that attacks and threats against journalists persist as media freedom has deteriorated, and noted the narrowing space in Greece for groups working with migrants and asylum seekers.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor, drew similar conclusions following a visit to Greece in June 2022 to assess the situation for rights defenders in the country, including journalists. In her report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March, Lawlor noted that news reports that are “inconvenient or unflattering for the government, including reporting on serious human rights violations, do not get sufficient coverage on many media outlets,” and journalists have faced “criminal lawsuits and strategic lawsuits against public participation for their investigative reporting on corruption and environmental pollution.”

In a development welcomed by media rights organizations, Citizens Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos announced on April 28 the arrests of two suspects in connection with the 2021 assassination of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz. RSF welcomed the arrests as progress but noted that full accountability for the murder of Karaivaz requires that “all those responsible for the crime including the mastermind must be apprehended.”

With upcoming national elections on May 21, it’s vital candidates pledge to restore media freedom in the country, including trust in the ability of journalists to do their job without government interference. Free media and a vibrant civil society are the cornerstone of a functioning democratic country, and a free and fair election is impossible without free media.

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