Uncomfortable with basic rights

Uncomfortable with basic rights

There are those who tied the recent commotion caused by an announcement regarding the transfer of Manos Sfakianakis, director of the Hellenic Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, to another division, to a discussion which had taken place a few days earlier, when there was talk of the government’s so-called plans to develop a broader “control of the Internet.” People were saying that the government wanted to see one of its own people at the helm of this particularly sensitive department.

In the wake of strong, large-scale reaction, the administration gave in, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, on an official trip abroad, intervening directly. In the end, Sfakianakis maintained his position in a roundabout way.

Despite all this, though, the question remains: Does the government truly wish to control whatever is posted on Greek websites? Following an also much-discussed amendment concerning tenders for four TV licenses and some peculiar – to say the least – comments by ministers that, for instance, media should not be critical of the government, should we have been surprised?

One way or another, especially in the case of having greater control over the Internet, the entire conversation is perhaps not being taken very seriously for a simple reason: No one can control the Internet. Even in those countries where there is a serious shortage of democracy, where the state “filters” the Internet, people still find ways of getting around whatever government obstacles there may be.

On the other hand, however, the way in which cabinet ministers seem to discredit and display suspicion toward freedom of speech and the press reveals something serious if nothing else: that the current coalition government seems to get uncomfortable when it comes to the fundamental, essential principles and values of our democracy and parliamentarism. Perhaps these are leftovers from old leftist syndromes: Disagreement is not appreciated, it is simply a reaction and as such should be neutralized.

This is all very worrisome. Paradoxically, however, the ongoing and nearly comical indecisiveness and disagreement within the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks administration, the laid-back, cafeteria-style of management in general, allows for some sort of optimism, at least with regard to any threat that our most fundamental democratic right might be under.

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