OPINION

Curbing corruption

All initiatives to introduce and delineate the rules regarding any incompatibility of business ownership to undertake public contracts if they are also a media owner – whether this takes place at the constitutional level or that of the law – prompts reaction concerning the complexity of implementing such provisions and the «danger of exaggeration.» Any reservations should not be dealt with using technical arguments but, primarily, with political ones. We are not dealing with any «official» problem which, due to overenthusiastic hullabaloo, should become the subject of some constitutional provision. We are, rather, confronted by an obscure gray area of political and economic corruption which has been left to prosper unchecked. The fact that the matter has drawn the attention of the country’s constitutional lawmakers is not a local exception but reflects the size of the problem and the public’s urgent calls for a cure. Greek citizens have a clear memory of how we wound up in the present situation, where several business owners use their media outlets to promote their business interests, pressing or rewarding politicians and other officials. This situation was formalized with the recently orchestrated mudslinging against the President of the Republic. However, what began as hurried legislation to regulate the broadcasts by private radio and television stations has ended up in a vague realm, as even the broadcast permits have yet to be issued. This situation is marked by media oligopolies and the flourishing of numerous small, local networks which broadcast with no license or regulation of their owners’ vested interests nor the manner in which they utilize their power. It is a situation where the market comes first – with all its inherent problems – and the rather timid, legal regulations come later; regulations which remain largely inactive. The provisional settlement of 1989 has been swamped under a web of political and business entanglements where everyone knows who is violating the laws and why they are able to, but everyone lets sleeping dogs lie. This is the present situation. This is what caused the public outcry and pressure for the introduction of constitutional restrictions over parallel ownership of media and enterprises which undertake public contracts. This is responsible for the corrosion of the state realm, this the corruption which ranges from television and the press to public works and gambling. Technical difficulties are no real excuse for not cutting out such a tumor. No doubt, the law has to be examined. But it must finally also be introduced and implemented. There is no room for reservations. No one who is seriously ill avoids taking the necessary medicine for fear of a few side effects.