State TV journalists strike over suspension of two presenters

Greek state television journalists accused the government of censorship and began a series of work stoppages on Tuesday after two well-known presenters were suspended for criticizing a government minister.

Their removal came on the same day an editor went on trial for printing a list of 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, prompting outrage at the swift pursuit of journalists in comparison to the sluggish crackdown on suspected tax evaders.

State NET TV yanked Marilena Katsimi and Costas Arvanitis’s morning show after an on-air exchange on Monday in which they said a medical report supported allegations of police torture and asked if the public order minister would resign over it.

Arvanitis said the decision to suspend him and Katsimi appeared to be politically motivated and an attempt to muzzle the media.

“This is not about us anymore, this is about censorship in state TV,» Arvanitis told Reuters in an interview. «Will we be given a list of words and comments that we are allowed to make, from now on?”

State television said the two were suspended for making «unacceptable allusions» about the minister, Nikos Dendias, and for failing to give him a chance to respond to the charges.

Dendias has denied the medical reports showed evidence of torture of protesters during anti-fascist rallies, as alleged by a newspaper. Arvanitis said state TV’s position was wrong.

“When a journalist makes a comment on air or in text, he doesn’t need to have the response of the politician,» he said.

“We would also like to say that we are sorry because yesterday we also commented on the U.S. elections but we didn’t think to call (U.S. President Barack) Obama to get his view on the issue.» [Reuters]

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