Wrong impression

Wrong impression

The New York Times published an opinion piece on Monday titled “The Adults are Back in Charge in Greece. And they are Really Right Wing.” Its author, Matthaios Tsimitakis, we are told, is “a Greek journalist.” The piece refers to New Democracy as a “right-wing party with pronounced authoritarian tendencies” and accuses Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of pursuing “divisive and polarizing policies.”

“The return of order is proving to be the return of the hard right,” writes Tsimitakis.

One can quibble about the details in the article – the supposed “hypocrisy” of Mitsotakis on North Macedonia, though he clearly stated before the election that he would accept the deal once ratified, despite his disagreements with it; the laughable concern about the independence of the state broadcaster, whose obedience to government diktat reached unprecedented levels under the previous SYRIZA administration; the casting of the reform of university asylum policy as a sign of an emerging police state; the crocodile tears about the new government’s immigration policy, when the previous government, behind its humanitarian rhetoric, allowed refugees to languish in hellish conditions on Greece’s islands.

But the real issue is that this was not written by a mere “journalist.” Tsimitakis served in the press office of the former prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. The New York Times should have known that – and if they didn’t, he should have told them. Opinions – even grossly one-sided ones – are fine, so long as we know who is really writing them.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the great American newspaper has gotten Greece wrong. On the eve of the July 7 election, the Times published a profile of Tsipras, based almost exclusively on sources and quotes from within SYRIZA, in which he was presented as the man who saved Greece and on whom voters were, inexplicably, turning their backs.

The profile neglected to mention that it was his amateurish experimentation that brought the country closer than ever to Grexit, and that his policies since September 2015 have kept growth levels anemic and have wrought significant damage to Greece’s institutions, from the media to the judiciary (those “authoritarian tendencies” Tsimitakis was talking about). The Times also gave succor to Yanis Varoufakis in 2015 as the then finance minister pushed Greece to the brink of a historic catastrophe. The paper’s star economic columnist, Paul Krugman, went as far as to urge Greeks to vote “no” in the travesty of a referendum in July of that year, so that they could escape the clutches of German-imposed austerity.

The New York Times, an inspiring beacon in a sector beset by a plethora of challenges, is doing itself and its readers an injustice when it presents a false image of Greece to the world.

UPDATE: The New York Times have published an editor’s note stating that the original version of the article “failed to identify fully the author’s work history,” clarifying that Tsimitakis worked in the press office for Greece’s ex prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

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