OPINION

Reinforcing institutions

The Ombudsman?s annual report for 2011 sets out the challenge faced by every Greek institution and citizen: the need to avoid being swept away in the storm of change and uncertainty, but rather to build our society on a firmer base. The negligence of institutional bodies contributed — to a greater or lesser extent — to today?s economic, political and social crisis. Now, it is only by strengthening them that we can hope to limit the damage so that our society can recover.

?In a climate of crisis that is economic but also institutional, when it is evident that a political model and its relationship with society is coming to an end, and as the new era has not yet dawned, the independent authority has to contribute toward shaping a new social contract in Greece. Only strong institutions and and their conscientious functioning can support the country and its citizens in the difficult period that we are going through and help lead to future restoration,? Calliope Spanou noted in her introduction to the report.

The same applies to every watchdog, or ?independent authority,? such as the Competition Commission, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority, the Ombudsman and so on. It applies to the judiciary. It applies to the press, which, from its particular vantage point, is obliged to keep checks on the political, economic and other agents who shape society. The failure of the society that we built after 1974 weighs heavily on all our institutions. Citizens are under fire from all directions. Nothing is as they knew it, as they expected it. They need the fixed points that institutions can provide, they need to know that someone is watching, that someone will keep control of the situation.

This need will lead to the strengthening of institutions; meanwhile, those who serve them are called on to overcome unprecedented difficulties in dealing with the consequences of crisis. In the case of the press, the reasons for the crisis are many and the fallout complicated. At a time when reliable information becomes even more necessary, journalism is threatened by the economic difficulties, by the chaos of new media (good, bad, indifferent or dangerous), by the consequences of entanglement with business and political interests, by bad choices and bad management — by all the weaknesses which contributed to citizens? suspicions.

There can be no democracy without a lively and independent press, without dynamic and objective state institutions. If we have not learned this yet, we never will.