Silence of the lambs

The media’s selective coverage of news, most recently underscored in the self-imposed gag over revelations that one of the Vodafone communications centers targeted by the spy software was in Intracom’s complex in Peania, has become the rule rather than the exception. This is for three reasons. First, deciding what is publishable and what is not is affected by the owner’s business interests, which are not always legitimate. Second, corrupt politicians and businesspeople avoid hurting each other, simply because they know too much about each other. Third, the smaller media outlets are afraid to turn against their stronger and better-connected competitors while journalists are discouraged from carrying out their duty of unbiased reporting. The bulk of the media generally practice self-censorship, manifested not only in the repression of events but also in their distortions of the truth. Given that the problem is more acute in the electronic media – generally preferred by the Greek public over newspapers – the issue touches at the heart of democratic institutions. The quintessence of popular sovereignty, the basis of democracy, is full and objective information. Governments are responsible for protecting this right. The constitution, taking into consideration the massive reach of the electronic media, has put them under the «direct control of the state.» This control, exercised by the National Radio and Television Council (ESR), aims at «the objective and broadcasting of information and news on equal terms.» If the ESR, as an independent authority, has so far limited its interventions to light entertainment programs, it’s not the fault of its members. They do not have the political backing to intervene in a way that would be denounced as censorship by colleagues appointed by the opposition. Implementing the constitution requires political will as well as consensus between the two main parties.