On Monday, June 11, according to BBC, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras ordered a shutdown of Greece’s public TV and radio broadcaster, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT). The shutdown was part of several austerity measures Greece has taken since the Eurozone crisis in 2009 to reduce its budget deficit and lead the country out of recession. Calling it a “haven of economic waste”, Samaras closed the ERT with the goal of restructuring it as a smaller broadcaster with less employees and more transparent spending.
The shutdown was met with immediate criticism, as ERT employees refused to leave the broadcasting building and the Athens Journalist Union held a 48-hour protest. Much of the criticism for the shutdown focused on its impact on the free speech of Greek citizens. As Chris Alefantis, founder of Sonia magazine, said in an interview with The Guardian "The overnight closure of the state broadcaster is a sad day for Greek democracy, and not only for the Greek media landscape. The Greek people are just about to lose their voice.”
While Alefantis’ rhetoric was, perhaps, a little strong, its hard to argue that the Greek public hasn’t lost a valuable source for their free speech. With three TV channels, four national radio stations, and several regional stations across the country, ERT was the main source of news for thousands of Greek citizens who will now be left in the dark from ERT’s closure. How can these citizens hope to discuss important issues when they have no way to learn about those issues? While everyone agrees that ERT should be restructure, closing the broadcaster entirely is going too far.
As reported by The Guardian, on Monday, June 17, the Greek high court ruled that ERT must start broadcasting again. But despite the ruling, Morning Star reports that ERT is still off-air as officials decide the full extent of the reopening. Even so, the court’s ruling is a positive sign for the Greek people’s freedom of speech.