OPINION

Broad violation of an absurd law

November 2001 in Munich: German authorities arrest Islamists suspected of participating in al-Qaida attacks against the United States two months earlier. Despite the fact that the detentions are carried out at night, all the television channels have dispatched news teams to wait outside the courthouses – in vain, as it turns out, because the police have hidden the defendants under a large sheet. September 2001 in Athens: Greek authorities hand over public officials accused of blackmail and graft to investigating magistrates. The handovers take place in front of the TV cameras and no one tries to protect the defendants from the cameras. On the contrary, the general secretary of the ruling party asked reporters, «Did you get the handcuffs?» A tragicomic observation: In Germany there is no law banning the filming of defendants and the broadcasting of the scenes – and rightly so. In Greece, meanwhile, there is a law banning even the photographing of defendants in public places – but it is not implemented. So, in a country drowning in a profusion of legislation, former justice minister Philippos Petsalnikos had a bright idea. He decided to draft a new law banning the photographing of defendants, as well as the publication of the material. The bill was submitted in Parliament, the minister voiced the usual platitudes at press conferences («We are solving a chronic problem,» etc). The law was voted through before being shelved (apart from one occasion when it was exercised against a regional television channel in Patras). Petsalnikos’s law is worse than bad, it is absurd. It not only bans the publication but also the photographing of defendants in public places. But despite any valid objections one may have, the law applies and should be enforced. But we are now witnessing the blatant violation of this law. The funny thing is that no one reacted to the approval of law with censorship and now no one is reacting to its widespread violation. Evidently, the only function of laws is to fill lawyers’ bookshelves.