Simitis lays down the law to news media

In his first comments on the issue since last Thursday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the allegations made by a journalist against President Costis Stephanopoulos were part of a campaign to destabilize the political system and he called on all political parties to be on the alert for a repeat of the incident. Driving home his point, he announced measures to keep the news media from overstepping the bounds of their mission and undermining institutions. Greece’s political parties rushed unanimously last Thursday to defend President Stephanopoulos when it appeared he might resign out of sensitivity following allegations on Extra channel that he had rented a shop to someone who placed tampered slot machines in it for illegal gambling. On Thursday, Simitis had spoken against the effort to destabilize the political system – as the president’s resignation could have led to early parliamentary elections if no candidate could gain the three-fifths majority needed to win. «We will defend the normal political climate with word and deed against every unethical attack, wherever it may come from, whatever disguise it takes on, because Democracy cannot be subjugated by any person or other interest,» Simitis told a meeting of his PASOK party’s Executive Bureau. This made clear that the prime minister did not see the attack on Stephanopoulos as part of a television ratings war but rather as the result of an effort to control political developments. Simitis indicated that a new attack could be made in the coming days and called on other parties to be prepared. «Whoever tried once – and this was not by chance – will probably try again. I hope that the reaction of the political world has taught them a lesson,» he said. Simitis mentioned the actions that will be taken to defend public life by the passing of legislation banning the owner of a mass media outlet to be a contractor or supplier of the State, a tidying up of which broadcast media have licenses and the introduction of a set of ethics for news bulletins. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said that the Inner Cabinet will discuss the legislation regarding owners of mass media on Thursday. Tomorrow the government will hold a meeting on corruption in the public sector.

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