Focus magazine ‘Greek cheats’ trial begins in Athens

An Athens court on Friday postponed until November 29 the libel trial of 13 journalists employed by the German magazine Focus in connection with a front page of the publication from February 2010 depicting a statue of the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture under the title ?Greek cheats.?

The trial was postponed as six of the 13 defendants appear not to have received their summons and therefore did not turn up at the Athens misdemeanors court. The remaining seven journalists appeared in court along with their lawyers, all Greek, who claimed that the front-page image of the statue and the text of the article, with its criticism of Greek profligacy, might have been upsetting to some but was not punishable offense.

?The opinions expressed might not be annoying to some but we must tolerate criticism within the context of the freedom of the press,? the lawyers said. Their statement added that Greek judgment is sometimes clouded by ?excessive egotism,? noting that other reports contained far more acute criticism.

The line of the prosecution, a group of Greek lawyers led by Theodoros Frangakis, was that the Focus piece was ?intentionally insulting and despicable,? noting that it was unacceptable to describe all Greeks as cheats in the name of the freedom of the press.

Following the appearance of the controversial Focus piece in February last year – and another article in Stern magazine in the form of an open letter to Greeks from disgruntled German taxpayers – Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos claimed that some German press reports had ?surpassed all limits.?