Wanted: Action on TV slandering

The protests over the past few days in reaction to the appearance of self-styled TV prosecutors give cause for a bit of optimism in an otherwise bleak landscape. A few people, at any rate, are still trying to resist the moral decline which has tainted the very essence of our democratic institutions. We shall never tire of repeating that if corruption in Greece has assumed unnerving dimensions, this is because the state has dragged its feet on the issue for years. Moreover, we cannot question the role of investigatory journalism. After all, this newspaper has often employed such tactics. The question is not whether journalists should monitor and reveal cases of wrongdoing. The point, rather, is that certain programs have gone too far, transforming themselves into unchecked arenas for the humiliation of the guilty and, sometimes, of the innocent as well. There is little doubt that these programs became immensely popular by filling the gap caused by the slow response of state authorities. But although the gap may explain a practice that effectively discards the rule of law, it by no means legitimates it. If the state’s monitoring mechanisms are dysfunctional then they must be fixed, not substituted by TV tribunals governed by censors who hurl accusations at people and impose the severe punishment of public humiliation. Tolerating the ailment is a violation of human rights. The state has a clear-cut obligation to fulfill: implementing the law. The existing legal framework is sufficient and clear. It protects the freedom of the press but mandates the punishment of any journalists or media which use their power to defame innocent people. What we lack is not laws but the political will to implement them. Had this happened in time, television excesses would have been curbed before reaching the current proportions while corruption would have been kept at bay. The truth is, implementation of the law is no longer an obvious fact. Here’s a sphere of action not only for the government and the political system but also for the country’s institutions in general.