OPINION

Greek-Turkish ties and the role of the media

greek-turkish-ties-and-the-role-of-the-media

It has been a busy couple of months in Greek-Turkish relations, with the failed meeting on Cyprus in Geneva, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ visit to Turkey and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu’s subsequent trip to Greece, and of course the upcoming meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the upcoming NATO summit.

Combined with Erdogan’s planned first sit-down at the NATO meet with Joe Biden, where the US president is expected to put several issues on the table, including Turkey’s provocative behavior in the East Mediterranean and in Cyprus, Greek-Turkish relations are very much at the forefront right now.

The government in Athens is doing everything it needs to be doing and the opposition is keeping a close eye on developments, hopefully with the maturity demanded by the sensitive nature of a subject that should be above populist grandstanding and political squabbling. Both SYRIZA and Movement for Change have led governments and know the enormous challenges at hand.

At the same time, both countries’ media play a very important role in this complex puzzle. The way they present the relationship, and how they deliver and frame the statements of the governments’ top officials, makes a difference and influences developments.

The media are often reluctant to report certain truths because they may be hard to swallow. However, it is our role not only to inform, but also to contribute to educating society, especially when it comes to complex issues with many legal, political and financial aspects.

As in life, things are not always black and white in international relations. Most cases are different shades of gray and need to be handled maturely, knowledgeably and ably by the political leadership, but also by the media.

The recent handling of these issues by Greece’s top diplomat has been widely hailed by the public, something that was to be expected given that he underscored Greece’s key positions. But that was the easy part. Where it gets tricky is when they have to walk a tightrope and handle extremely sensitive issues, knowing that they are unlikely to get their way in everything and that even friends, allies and partners may push for flexibility at critical moments.

And this is when those of us who shape public opinion must be cautious about our analyses. Yellow journalism does not serve the national interest. In fact, apart from being unfair and unacceptable, it can also lead to more trouble for the country.

Consistent, realistic positions and hard negotiation tactics, combined with flexibility when necessary: That is how to serve the national interest. And that is the case not only for the government and the opposition, but also for the media; especially that handful of people who have earned credibility with the public and are respected both at home and abroad, even by the “other side,” meaning that everything they say or write matters.