Not seeing the trees for the wood

The decision by the Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) to publish a long list containing the names of over a thousand journalists who held public sector jobs while also working in the media in 2003 does little to stem corruption and conflicting interests. In truth, the move was intended to make an impression and in any case it was not the best way to spell the legitimate concerns of the public. For many of the journalists mentioned in the list, their state sector job is their only employment. For a considerable number, it is merely a job on the side that secures a much-needed additional source of income. In other words, for the vast majority of the journalists, the dual status raises neither a question of legality nor of the code of journalistic ethics. To be sure, the list also contains a number of sinecurists whose names deserve to be made public. But that was not the case. Rather, the state minister and the ESIEA board decision sowed confusion all round as it effectively threw the baby out with the bathwater. This allows wrongdoers to get lost in the crowd. In the currently tense climate, the release of the controversial list stigmatizes journalists that have nothing to be held accountable for. Had there been a clear will to impose transparency, the journalists’ union should have insisted that public utilities (DEKO) also make public the names of journalists on their payroll. Then it should release only the names of journalists who are in breach of the code of practice. The problem has often surfaced in the past in one way or another – but always as a by-product of partisan bickering over another issue. This time, it was the confrontation over the state tender bill that catapulted the issue onto center stage and not some political decision by the government or ESIEA. That is significant, and it confirms that there has been no shortage of hypocrisy in the case. Those in the know are well aware that far more serious than sinecurism is journalists’ involvement with big political and business interests. Although it’s hard to trace the flow of secret and illegal funds, it’s worth making the effort. Here’s a challenge for those who have vowed to fight corruption.

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