Journalists 'in danger' as Greek press freedom falls

·3-min read
Statha Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz said her husband's assassination 'shows that journalists are in danger' in Greece
Statha Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz said her husband's assassination 'shows that journalists are in danger' in Greece

The wife of a Greek journalist murdered two years ago believes the profession is imperilled in her country, which remains the European Union's worst performer in a press freedom ranking published on Wednesday.

Giorgos Karaivaz, a 52-year-old reporter who specialised in covering crime and corruption, was shot dead in broad daylight outside his Athens home by a balaclava-clad man on April 9, 2021.

The killer fired more than 10 bullets before fleeing with his accomplice on a motorcycle. The murder sparked condemnation from the European Commission, journalists' unions and human rights organisations.

Karaivaz's assassination "shows that journalists are in danger" in Greece, his wife, Statha Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz, told AFP in an interview.

In the 2023 World Press Freedom Index compiled by NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and released on Wednesday, Greece languishes in 107th place on a list of 180 countries -- the lowest-ranked EU nation for a second year running.

Herself a former journalist, Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz said the ranking was an indictment on the deterioration of media freedom in the southern European country.

"I believe there is no press freedom, certainly. Scandals are brushed under the carpet, people are only interested in rising prices," the 53-year-old civil servant added.

- 'Highly inadequate' -

RSF said spying on journalists by the intelligence agencies and via the Predator spyware explained Greece's lowly ranking, calling the alleged practices "the most serious attempt on press freedom in an EU member state".

High-profile politicians were embroiled in the scandal, which rocked the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last year.

Athens denies the allegations.

"The government and justice system's response has been highly inadequate. Media have remained threatened by abusive lawsuits," RSF said in its report.

"Media professionals continue to be threatened by police violence and attacks by extremist groups," RSF added, saying a task force set up in 2022 "has yet to make a significant impact".

Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz denounced what she called "gaps" in Greece's rule of law and delays in the police investigation into her husband's murder.

The couple had been married for 31 years.

She believes the killing was linked to her husband's work on corruption -- an arena involving "officers, politicians, leading entrepreneurs and the Church".

- 'Wanted to silence him' -

"Some people wanted to silence him, that's why they killed him. Giorgos was in touch with police officers, businessmen, politicians and sometimes even prisoners, anyone who could act as a source for him," she said.

There were cases "where his reporting was turned down by a television channel after government intervention", she added -- but she "never imagined" her husband's life was under threat.

The police probe had seemingly stalled for two years before a development on Friday, when the authorities announced last week that two brothers aged 40 and 48 had been arrested in connection with the crime.

Alexandropoulou-Karaivaz said the arrests were "a positive development", while RSF called on the authorities "to apprehend all the perpetrators including the mastermind of the assassination".

"Domestic and international critique should be taken very seriously by the authorities when it comes to the resolution" of the crime and other press freedom issues, it added.

In March, a delegation of a European Parliament committee responsible for civil liberties expressed concern about threats against the rule of law and fundamental rights in Greece.

But Mitsotakis appears unfazed and has previously described the RSF rankings as "crap".