NEWS

Speaker calls journalists ‘parasites’ and 30 MPs ‘clowns’

Some journalists are «parasites of their employers and publishers,» according to Parliamentary Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis. He made the accusation during a telephone call to a program on Antenna after midnight last Wednesday. And he added that television station owners do not care about the «continual decline» of news, «meaningless discussions,» or television that «offers neither education nor entertainment.» The topic of the discussion was the crisis on the political scene in connection with the media and ways of protecting the public. Guests on the program were Press and Media Minister Christos Protopappas, New Democracy parliamentary spokesman Prokopis Pavlopoulos, National Radio and Television Council (ESP) Vice President Spyros Flogaiitis and three well-known journalists. Kaklamanis admitted that among the 300 deputies in Parliament there were «around 30 clown-deputies» who compete to appear in the windows on television discussion programs. I disagree, I disagree, I disagree The guests disapproved noisily of this description, and the presenter of the program stated «I disagree» at least three times during Kaklamanis’s speech, adding that she disagreed «with everything» when it ended. Journalists are certainly entitled to disagree, but one wonders why she didn’t express her agreement or disagreement with what her guests had said. No matter how much the heated epithets used by Kaklamanis reflect popular anger at the decline of television news programs and express fear of the dark face of the infamous entangled interests, there is a risk they will fuel a witch hunt climate among journalists themselves. Incorruptibles versus parasites, the principled versus the vile, scribes versus famous journalists, and pluralists versus yellow-press hacks. Journalists are not one big happy family. They do not all have the same ideas, culture, aesthetics, income and power. We are entitled to disagree with each other and criticize – even vehemently – the way journalism is practiced in the press and the electronic media, and of course to disagree with specific things, not generally and indefinitely. Sweeping generalizations, vicious insults, voracious competition, a lack of solidarity with colleagues (especially younger or dismissed journalists) will not separate the sheep from the goats but may establish a system that will both threaten the freedom of the press and suppress democratic freedoms. Government responsibility The government is chiefly responsible for the uncontrolled state of television over the past decade. Frequencies, which are a public commodity, were handed over to private owners in 1989 without any terms or conditions. Now, in a belated demonstration of sensitivity, it is as if the government were promising to regulate and legalize a large multistory illegal building built on publicly owned land and operating free of any obligations. Naturally its statements are received with some misgivings (not necessarily with ridicule or malice), and Kaklamanis’s angry outbursts not only misfire but back up the arguments of those who want the diminution or the neutralization of any democratic (and not only state and institutional) control of the unrestrained television scene. When the ESP representative is not able to say how many of the fines imposed by the council have been paid, even in rough figures, it is not easy to convince us that new regulations and dialogue – stage-managed or otherwise – will guarantee compliance by private channels which until recently enjoyed political favor, and which have always been unruly. Two former police officers and another man facing life sentences for importing cocaine into Greece got off lightly yesterday after a Thessaloniki appeals court reduced their jail sentences to eight years each after new evidence emerged that the drugs had been bought in Greece and not imported. Efstathios Tarkazidis and Mehit Hoka – both former policemen – and Stefanos Tsismitzis would have spent their lives in jail were it not for the Hoka’s sister, who testified that the 1 kilo and 50 grams of cocaine had been purchased in Greece.