Instrusive media overstep the mark

The nocturnal visit by the lawyer wife of Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis to testify as a witness before Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas, and the clear attempt to hide her from the media, have stirred controversy. Some slammed the alleged favoritism toward the spouse of a minister on a subject bound to grab the attention of the press. The equal-treatment principle was violated in the case of Christina Haratsari-Valinaki, they say. True, witnesses do not all receive the same discretion in relation to the time and manner of arrival and departure. In high-profile cases, such as the trial-fixing ring about which Valinaki testified, the cameras, the microphones and the private TV loudmouths hover around the legal sanctum to conduct their own «interrogations.» People enter and exit the courts embarrassed and discomfited, they are forced to mutter something before the intrusive camera to dispel any sense of guilt or they take to their heels hidden behind dark glasses, pushing off others, degraded by the broadcast image. If we want to talk about equality before the law and the state then we must stop the fabrication of guilt, suspects and impressions used in the service of the daily feeding frenzy of private television. Trials, of course, must get the exposure they are due, but without offending the character of those who appear in court, influencing judges or altering the required procedures. Publicity is one thing while a media frenzy is quite another. The judicial authorities were right to protect Valinaki. But the same treatment must be reserved for witnesses in other high-profile cases. Courts, the police and the political authorities must set limits on publicity and protect those who take part in judicial investigations. The intrusive cameras and bloodthirsty media must learn that courthouses are off limits. Those who wish to keep the court away from the public eye must be able to do so. The same applies to those who wish to talk to the media. That would be genuine equality before the law and the state as demanded by the constitution.

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