Thodoris Chondrogiannos 24 • 10 • 2022

Wiretapping Scandal: Grigoris Dimitriadis files SLAPP lawsuit following his resignation

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Wiretapping Scandal: Grigoris Dimitriadis files SLAPP lawsuit following his resignation
24 • 10 • 2022

 After resigning from his position as Secretary General to the Prime Minister amid successive media revelations of the state surveillance of high level politicians, journalists and armed forces personnel, Grigoris Dimitriadis has filed a lawsuit against the journalists and media outlets investigating the case. Domestic and international organisations expressed their opposition and condemned it as a SLAPP, a legal action aimed at silencing journalism.

Following media reports by Reporters United and the Efimerida ton Syntakton (1, 2) and the subsequent confirmation from the National Intelligence Service that MEP and PASOK President Nikos Androulakis was indeed under state surveillance, the Prime Minister’s nephew, Grigoris Dimitriadis submitted his resignation on August 5 from the position of the Prime Minister’s Secretary General, a role that included political supervision of the intelligence service. On the same day, Panagiotis Kontoleon also resigned from his post as head of the National Intelligence Service (EYP). 

On the day of his resignation, Mr Dimitriadis filed a lawsuit against Reporters United, Efimerida ton Syntakton and journalists Nikolas Leontopoulos, Thodoris Chondrogiannos and Thanasis Koukakis, demanding from all defendants a total amount of more than half a million euros. (EUR 150 000 from Reporters United, EUR 250 000 from Efimerida ton Syntakton and EUR 150 000 from Thanasis Koukakis).

Reactions at home and abroad have condemned the lawsuit:

Teresa Ribeiro, the representative of the intergovernmental Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), responsible for media freedom issues, has issued a statement of support: “I will closely monitor Grigoris Dimitriadis’ lawsuit against Reporters United website, @EFSYNTAKTON & journalists Nikolas Leontopoulos & Thodoris Chondrogiannos, for reporting about alleged dealings with a Predator spyware seller. The law must not be abused to stifle the media.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a lengthy statement, expressing their concern about the “abusive lawsuits,”: 

Law 1178/81 regulates the basic legal framework of lawsuits against journalists and the media (Government Gazette AD187/16.7.1981 – On civil liability of the press and other provisions). With its original provisions passed 40 years ago, this law does not contain provisions to protect against Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, so-called SLAPPs, which aim to intimidate and silence critical voices.

The failure to adopt an effective legal framework for dealing with SLAPP lawsuits effectively leaves the media, journalists and organisations vulnerable to abusive legal attacks by powerful politicians or large multinationals who have the financial means to litigate repeatedly against financially weaker media and journalists in order to silence them. This phenomenon ultimately harms the freedom of the press, which is protected by Article 14 of the Constitution.

As such, the state must take immediate measures to protect against these abusive legal attacks. In fact, the need to adopt such measures is supported by both the European Commission and the European Parliament. The Commission is currently preparing a proposal for a directive to “protect journalists and human rights defenders in strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).”

In November 2021, the European Parliament also voted in favour of a report calling for new rules within the EU, “to counteract the threat that Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) pose to journalists, NGOs and civil society in Europe.” SLAPPs, they say, are frivolous legal actions based on exaggerated and often abusive claims, aiming to intimidate and professionally discredit their targets, with the ultimate objective of blackmailing and silencing them. Among the measures proposed by the European Parliament is the establishment of rules on early dismissal by the courts so that abusive lawsuits can be stopped quickly based on objective criteria; the claimant should face sanctions if they fail to justify in what way their action is not abusive.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

In a state that adheres to the rule of law, both individual rights and the freedom of the press are protected. Journalists have the right to practice their work freely and independently, without censorship or influence.

Despite the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of the press, an anachronistic legal framework in Greece leaves members of civil society and journalists unprotected from abusive legal attacks.

As advocated by both the European Commission and the European Parliament, measures must be adopted to protect journalistic investigation and the freedom of the press. 

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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