Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Public service broadcasting placed under the control of the Prime Minister
18 • 10 • 2020

In July 2019, the government placed the Greek public service broadcasters, ERT, and ANA-MPA, the Athens News Agency – Macedonian Press Agency, under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s office, bringing public broadcasting and the only news agency in the country under direct prime ministerial control.

After his victory in the 2019 elections, the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, by way of a General Presidential Decree  (Issue A ‘119 / 08.07.2019 of the government gazette) placed the General Secretariat of Information and Communication, which is the supervising body of ERT and the Athens News Agency – Macedonian Press Agency under the supervision of the Maximos Mansion, the Greek Prime Minister’s Office.

Article 5 of the decree specifically states that “[…] to the Prime Minister are transferred, as a set of responsibilities, positions, staff and supervised bodies, the General Secretariat of Information and Communication, as it was organized under the provisions of Chapter E of the Presidential Decree 82/2017 as well as the Special Secretariat for Crisis Management Communication as organized under the provisions of Chapter F of the same decree.”

However, Mitsotakis’ decision to put ERT under his own office’s supervision received similar criticism, as it was seen as a sign of centralization of power and increasing control of public service broadcasting by the government.

In fact, in October 2020, the Council of State’s Section 5, in Opinion No. 174/2020, judged that “radio and television are under the direct control of the state, a concept which goes beyond the scope, content and the meaning of state supervision. It is the National Broadcasting Council and not the central public administration that is charged with control of and imposition of sanctions on the radio and television media “.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

 In a state that adheres to the rule of law, where individual rights and in particular freedom of the press are protected, journalists have the right to practice their profession freely and independently, without censorship or influence. Furthermore, the public broadcasting services and news agencies should operate without influence from the state and the government, and be able to pursue stories that are critical of the government as a check on the abuse of power.

Only independent authorities, such as the National Broadcasting Council, at least in theory, should oversee public broadcasting and information services and not a government office such as the Prime Minister.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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