Unprecedented SLAPPs used to target independent media and journalists in Greece.

The Silent Battle- Whistleblowers, SLAPP Lawsuits, PTSD and the Psychological Toll on Families by Aris Danikas

A stream of recent SLAPP lawsuits have hit targeting independent journalists and media outlets in Greece. SLAPPS  – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation  – are a type of legal action designed to shut down the media or other outlets from reporting on a particular issue. The actions are not aimed at using the justice system to resolve a justice issue. Instead the protagonists often know they will lose eventually but the main point is to exhaust the resources of the other side until they are silenced.

On October 19, 2021, the Greek independent media outlet Altherthess and one of its journalists, Stavroula Poulimeni, were targeted by Efstathios Lialios, an executive of Greek gold mining company Hellas Gold. The court case involved a demand from the mining company of €100,000 in damages over an article the site published in 2020 about the executive’s criminal conviction.

On January 13, 2022, Greek journalist Thodoris Chondrogiannos went to court after a recycling company called “Rewarding Packaging Recycling”, filed a lawsuit against both the investigative reporter and his former employer, “insidestory.gr” demanding €80,000 in compensation.

 Journalist Tasos Sarantis from the daily newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton (EFSYN) appeared in court on February 10, 2022, on charges of “false publications” related to an article on the construction of a wind farm in the Peloponnese. WRE Hellas, the renewable energy company on which he reported, has sued him for €225,000 for defamation.

Athens Review of Books has reported that Mr.Panagiotos Dimitras, self-claimed “ the Greek National private Prosecutor” has been using lawsuits as a tool to silence people with different opinions and spread false allegations. Many more journalists, including M. Vasilakis, Sotiris Triantafyllou, Fotis Georgelis (Athens Voice) Takis Theodoropoulos, ( H Kathimerini), Thanasis Mavridis,( Liberal) Aris Portosalte, ( Sky) George Papachristos, ( Ta Nea) and others were sued for publicly expression their opinions.

This extensive use of lawsuits by Panagiotis Dimitras, has been brought to light, with over 800 of them, and with 34 prosecutors and even high-ranking judicial officials among those sued. According to various publications, the lawsuits have been used to silence those who have a different opinion from Panagiotis Dimitras.

The article also highlights that the “Protagon” and Dionysis Gousetis and Alexis Papachelas of “Kathimerini” were exempted from the lawsuits. This suggests that the Mr. Dimitras has been selective in choosing who to sue.

On February 15, 2022, the Three-Member Misdemeanours Court of Athens sentenced Panayote Dimitras and Andrea Gilbert to a twelve-month prison sentence suspended for three years on the charge of “false accusation” (Article 229 of the Criminal Code of Greece). The sentence has been appealed. However, the various Human Rights organisations such as the Observatory and Amnesty International expressed concerns over the sentencing of Panagiotis Dimitras and Andrea Gilbert.

On the 9th May 2023, the Three-Member Misdemeanours Court of Athens ruled in favour of the defender, director of Athens Review of books, Manoli Basilaki, a pilot case that was postponed nine times since February 2018.

Lawyer Alexis Kougias is seeking 30,000 euros from Angelidis and the newspaper for alleged defamation and slander in their coverage of the Lignadis trial. The publication in question, titled “Crescendo of obscenity from the Lignadis Defence,” reported on the sharpness of public interventions against vulnerable social groups protected by law. The “Newspaper of the Editors” and its journalist, Dimitris Angelidis, have received a wave of support in response to what they considered another SLAPP lawsuit filed by a powerful attorney in Greece.

 Political parties, journalistic associations, lawyers, and academics have all expressed their support for the newspaper and Angelidis. SYRIZA-PS and MeRA25 have both called for the dismissal of case, with MeRA25 noting that anti-SLAPP legislation is being routed in the EU.

Press unions, including POESY and ESIEA, have also expressed their undivided support for the newspaper and its journalist, emphasizing the importance of freedom of the press and the duty of journalists to report on real facts. The International Press Institute, a global network of editors and journalists, is urging the Greek Government to prioritize creating anti-SLAPP legislation.

In response to the lawsuit, several prominent public figures, such as lawyers, academics, including Xenophon Kontiadis, Ifigenia Kamtsidou, Thanasis Kabayannis, and George Pleios, have given interviews supporting the newspaper and its journalist. Stratis Bournazos has also praised the newspaper and Angelidis for doing their job right.

The use of lawsuits to silence critics and spread false allegations undermines freedom of speech and democracy, and it is essential that such actions are exposed and challenged. These Lawsuits demonstrate the need for Greece to create adequate anti-SLAPP legislation.

Ref:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/05/greece-targeting-journalist-for-reporting-on-environmental-damage-threatens-public-interest-reporting/

Journalist faces SLAPP lawsuit for investigative report on packaging recycling – govwatch

Greece: Journalists targeted in several SLAPP lawsuits – International Press Institute (ipi.media)

https://www.protagon.gr/apopseis/o-ethnikos-minytis-panagiwtis-dimitras-44342394858

https://newideas.gr/alli-mia-dikastiki-itta-toy-diavoitoy-ethnikoy-minyti-toy-manoli-vasilaki/

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/greece-sentencing-of-ghm-members-panayote-dimitras-and-andrea-gilbert

https://hellas.postsen.com/trends/325647/Kougias-Attempt-to-silence-the-press-%E2%80%93-Today-the-hearing-of-a-lawsuit-against-EFSYN.html

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