Vociferous silence

The cases are too many to be labeled unfortunate coincidence. Kathimerini recently published a revealing and substantiated report about how middlemen mediated in the State’s procurement of 170 Leopard tanks, raising the cost of the purchase. Instead of turning the spotlights on such a hot story, so to speak, the vast majority of the media kept silent on the issue. The silence could be attributed to a desire to spite a competitive story, were it not for the disappearance of $73 million that was linked to Greece’s purchase of a Russian Tor-M1 short-range air defense system. The issue, however, was raised by Spilios Spiliotopoulos, a New Democracy deputy, so this is not a case of media competition. The silence from the media is pervaded by a shocking cynicism. The media only mentioned the case of the Leopard tanks after the prosecutor stepped in. They will only bother with the Tor-M1 case after the Defense Ministry statement and New Democracy’s response. The media kept a similar stance when faced with the disclosure (backed by state reports) that revenues from privatizations were used to cover current expenses and not for paying off debt, as is appropriate. In truth, all these are but expressions of the same problem: the unwarranted ties that exist between the Simitis administration and the business groups that control the majority of the Greek media. Until the mid-1980s, we had newspapers that were being more or less supportive of PASOK or of New Democracy. At some point, however, the media landscape changed. This was not only because radio and television joined the game but also because partisan mentality gradually gave way to business interests. It is no coincidence that Costas Simitis is the first premier in Greek history to have received such strong and sustained support from the overwhelming majority of the media. The reason, of course, is not his political magnitude – whatever that is. Rather, it is the fact that he bought political backing, offering in exchange privileged access to public contracts to the aforementioned business circles. These entangled interests are strong enough to force newspapers, radio stations and television channels to view news through selective and, in some cases, distorting lenses. This no doubt undermines the very essence of democracy. But even the manipulation of public opinion has its limits. Hence the crisis of confidence that has hit most of the media and the journalists involved in that game.