Overnight the Greek government moved against some 50 former ERT journalists who had been holed up in their headquarters since June, broadcasting against the administration’s austerity policies. ERT stands for Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi), Greece’s former state broadcaster.
Riot police moved in to evict the journalists and close down the channel for good. Since June they had been effectively unemployed, squatting in government property. Four journalists were briefly detained, then released. No one was hurt.
President of the ERT worker’s union Panagiotis Kalfagiannis said: “Today they had to muddy the waters because the troika members are in Athens and the government is to take new measures. They had to find a way to do this, and are now acting like fascists. They want to shut everyone’s mouth, and they have partially achieved this by using fear and a variety of different methods. We are the only ones left standing.”
[The ‘troika’ means the tripartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that organises loans to the Greek government and to other governments.]
Journalist Nikos Ioannidis said: “We, the employees of ERT, are outside the premises and as we speak we are planning to start broadcasting from here; this is our immediate goal.”
While some employees at the bloated broadcaster were certainly ‘dead weight’ and ‘enjoying easy street’, others were not, and they have considerable sympathy, from public and unions alike.
Thanasis Pafilis with the Greek Communist party said: “There has to be an answer to that. This is our message. All workers must be accountable, not only for what happened today, but because there are a lot of things happening and going wrong.”
Syriza opposition MP Zoe Konstantopoulou said: “What is taking place at this moment will be a black page in the country’s history. The government should be ashamed and will have to apologise forever.”
The government has set up a new public broadcaster but it has failed to gain much of an audience and Greeks know it is no substitute for the original.
Fay Doulgkeri with the euronews bureau in Athens said: “Last June 11, Greece’s national television stopped broadcasting. Almost five months later, police forces accompanied by a public prosecutor invaded the building in order to empty it. ERT employees have said that they will not give up the fight and are looking for new ways to keep on broadcasting.”