Greek Journalists Occupy Newsroom

For over five months, journalists, technicians, musicians, news editors and support staff of Greece’s public broadcasting network, ERT, have been occupying their newsroom.  In June of 2013 all 2,500 public workers were laid off by the Greek government due to austerity measures.  Occupying workers continue to provide 24-hour news coverage to Greek citizens for no pay.

“Our duty is to keep up the struggle for the sake of the people of Greece,” said Panagiotis Kalfagiannis, POSPERT President Technicians’ union. “It is our duty to continue our job in a professional way for the people.” 

Workers are doing everything from cleaning the building to broadcasting breaking news on a live internet stream.  Workers hope that the occupation brings awareness of the censorship of public media throughout the world as well as the need for freedom of press to educate and inform citizens. 

Deppy Vretou, a production coordinator who has worked at ERT for 17 years described the struggle.

“It is so hard to describe because it is so strange and no one knows exactly what will happen.  I tell my ten year old child that I need to be here, that we all need to be here to resist for the betterment of Greek society.  You hear people saying we were too many or too overpaid, but I was making a living wage for the city of Athens while working 10-12 hour days.  No one knows what it cost the Greek government to shut ERT down, to buy out advertisement agreements etc.” 

In June of 2013 the Greek government laid off all ERT workers who provided independent news and programming on radio and television stations throughout the country.  The shutdown of the public television and radio service sparked large protests and weeks of demonstrations as the public rallied around the workers and the independent news service they provide. 

Mahi Nikalara, a television journalist who has worked at ERT for over a decade, described the decision to close ERT down as “illogical.”  ERT in recent years has been profitable and contributing to the state budget while providing news information to both urban and far-reaching rural locations of Greece. 

“At the beginning we did not anticipate that the duration of our action would last for five months.  We also did not anticipate the outpouring of public support.  Today we feel the pressure is so strong that the government can no longer ignore ERT and its workers and will have to come up with a solution.” 

ERT continues to broadcast 24 hours a day on an internet stream that averages 170,000 unique viewers daily.  The occupying workers produce 4 one-hour news bulletins daily, a 3-hour long morning news brief, a weekend athletic news update, emergency news as well as providing a forum for a variety of voices for discussion based dialogue on social, economic and political issues. 

Jeny Katoufa, an ERT radio journalist and mother of 4, proudly proclaimed, “in our 24 hour broadcast there has been no mistake, not one minute of black screen.” 

See the video of interviews on YouTube

By Karen Hickey, AFL-CIO Wisconsin, USA