Secret media fund to be scrapped

A law that has existed since military dictators ruled Greece and which allows a government department responsible for media relations to use up to 600,000 euros of public money each year without having to record how the cash is distributed will be repealed, the government said on Wednesday.

Government spokesman Ilias Mosialos, who is also responsible for media-related issues in his role as minister of state, said that the ?classified expenditures? operated by the General Secretariat for Media, Communication and Information would cease in a bid to improve transparency and to boost state coffers.

?The use of secret funds by the services involved do not serve under any circumstances the national or public interest, which would have justified their existence,? he said, adding that the existence of these payments fuelled rumors about some journalists and publishers being in the pay of successive governments.

?They undermined the work of the general secretariat and left them open to criticism about manipulation,? said Mosialos.

The government official said that between 175,000 and 600,000 euros had been diverted each year via these clandestine accounts but hardly any records were kept of how the money was spent, while those records that were kept were later destroyed.

The government has not used the accounts since it came to power in 2009, added Mosialos.

The practice of secret payments had been enshrined in law in December 1970, when Greece was in the grip of a junta. The legislation allowed clandestine payments to be made if they were deemed to be ?in the national interest.?

Mosialos said that he would unveil by the end of September more proposals about how the general secretariat could save more money, such as limiting the travel expenses of ministry officials when meeting media representatives in Greece and abroad.