In a move that left the country speechless, the Greek government announced the closing of the state television and radio network ERT (the Greek equivalent of the BBC) yesterday. With an “emergency law” that hadn’t previously been discussed or announced, and in a fashion that suits dictatorial regimes more than it does democratic states, the closure was announced for midnight last night.
ERT is to pass under the direct control of the Finance Ministry and its 2,500 employees are to be fired in an effort to “reform” the state broadcaster. The government has labelled the station a “money-wasting and overstaffed mess”, and promises to reopen it in September with reduced staff and a different philosophy in its management. But who trusts the current government, given its poor track-record when it comes to press freedom, and its notoriously nepotistic practices?
Riot police were dispatched to take down the transmitters and switch off all possible links to the outside world from the ERT building in the Athens suburbs, after staff announced they would occupy it and continue broadcasting. Thousands of people gathered outside in support, but no clashes took place with the police that had soon surrounded the building. One by one, transmitters were shut down in a dramatic countdown broadcast through the station’s web TV, the last gateway of communication (still running at the moment). “This is a direct blow to democracy,” the presenters announced. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“direct control of the Finance Ministry”
The US government wants to send the signal that there are no limitations that they adhere to in the power that they can assert.
If you think about challenging us, if you think about blowing the whistle on what we’ve done in secret, look at what we’ve done to Bradley Manning. If you think about exposing the bad acts we’re doing, look at what we’ve done to Wikileaks. If you think about meaningfully challenging our foreign policy, look at the people rotting in Guantanamo for as long as we want to keep them there. Or the people that we target for death, without any accountability or due process.
They want this climate of fear to be maintained because it’s that climate of fear that engenders passivity and submission. All grounded in fear that any meaningful dissent will result in serious punishment, because the government no longer needs to honour or abide by the list of limitations that we’ve imposed on their power."