Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Greek-Turkish relations and the media

COMMENT

TAGS: Turkey, Media

Numerous dangers lurk for Greece in the country’s relations with Turkey. This is no time for arrogance and hyperbole, but for strategic planning, exchanges of thoughts and ideas – even with political rivals – well-researched speeches and moderate statements. It is no time for pouring fuel on the fire.

This complex puzzle of how issues are communicated also pertains to the media. We also need to act responsibly, avoiding populist and over-the-top statements. It is also time to do our share.

The shapers of public opinion are partly responsible for the way that politicians act and also how citizens respond. The work of the former is often made much harder, if not impossible, because of the demands of the latter, which in turn stem from the climate created by the media.

One example – which I’m not sure we’ve learned from – is the 1996 Imia crisis, the last serious confrontation between Greece and Turkey, which was stoked by the facile attitude of many journalists and brought the two countries to the brink of war.

Journalists, analysts and commentators have a duty to present the facts, the truth, and what is possible, which is often less than what is desirable. They need to be informed, realistic and mature, and to stop resorting to populism and convenient pseudo-patriotism, which has only resulted in making the work of whichever government is in power – and of all the serious politicians that can be found across the party spectrum – that much harder.

The ability to influence and often even shape public opinion comes with a grave responsibility – of historic dimensions, I dare say.

The answer to how we handle our neighbor to the east does not lie in a non-solution. Perpetually putting off issues for the future is not the way to go. When and how exactly we will make a move are tactics that need to be carefully examined before any decisions are made. But there’s certainly no point in hiding our heads in the sand.

International law always has been and always will be Greece’s focus. This means behaving according to its provisions, and accepting the decisions of the relevant international courts, which will not always be what we may hope for.

In this process, the media need to have the courage to explain this fundamental principle to a skeptical public opinion. This can be our contribution to the mature handling of some extremely sensitive issues.

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