Judges at an Athens first instance court on Thursday heard a libel suit brought by Defense Minister and Independent Greeks party chief Panos Kammenos against writer and cartoonist Andreas Petroulakis over an article published on the Protagon website in 2015.
A suit was also filed against former Protagon shareholder and editorial member Stavros Theodorakis, now leader of the centrist To Potami party.
Kammenos, who heads the nationalist junior party in Greece’s left-led coalition government, had initially filed for damages of 2 million euros, claiming that Petroulakis’s article, titled “Panos Kammenos, they’re starting to look like him” and aimed at the leftist-led administration, made libelous assertions and damaged his image.
The suit has stirred controversy, with several high-profile politicians, including New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis and PASOK strongman Evangelos Venizelos, siding with the defendants saying that the action aims to curb media freedoms.
Speaking for Kammenos, journalist Yiannis Daskas told judges that comments made in the article about the defense minister are “false” and “libelous,” while on the defendants’ side, former justice minister and respected academic Michalis Stathopoulos upheld the media’s right to exercise criticism of political officials and lambasted “the scare tactics used by influential political figures against the media in order to curtail criticism.”
In a statement coming out of the court, Petroulakis said that “exaggerated” lawsuits of this kind are aimed at quashing the freedom of the press and denied that he was specifically targeting Kammenos.
“It was an opinion piece and an expression of criticism against SYRIZA and only by extension against Panos Kammenos. The aim of the article was to draw attention to the… aberration that is the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition,” he said.
The level of damages was reduced to 100,000 euros and judges are to deliver their ruling within the next few months.