Media bill drive causes MP walkout

PASOK deputies walked out of Parliament yesterday, objecting to the government’s decision to fast-track its controversial media bill through the house even though the ruling conservatives maintained the legislation would help combat vested interests. The draft law was submitted to the house on Monday and will be voted on by the plenary session of the Parliament today. The government gave the bill emergency status, claiming that if it was not implemented soon, a legal vacuum would be created. The Socialists objected to the hasty nature of the process, arguing that it did not give a chance for proper debate and for them to raise their objections. «The government is ashamed of its initiative and is hiding,» said PASOK MP Dimitris Reppas. «We want a discussion and a chance to have our say.» The main shareholder law, as it has been dubbed, was originally passed through Parliament in January and formed the cornerstone of the government’s pre-election commitment to combat corruption. The law required media companies to name all their shareholders and banned anyone who owned more than 1 percent in a media company from having access to large public contracts. Objections from the European Commission, however, stalled the implementation of the law and the ruling conservatives were forced into negotiations with Brussels, which deemed the legislation too strict and said it could damage competition. A less rigorous version has now been put to Parliament banning owners from exercising «illicit influence» over their media organizations to win public tenders. Critics say this part of the law is not objective enough to have any impact. However, the government insisted yesterday that it had done all it could to maintain the key elements of its law. «We are not living alone in Europe. We are obliged to find common ground, even if we disagree,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. «The country is taking another step toward its unflinching aim in the struggle against entangled interests and the lack of transparency,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.

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