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NUJ stands up for journalism in Greece

13 June 2013

The NUJ took part in international condemnation of the ERT closure announcement on Wednesday and sends solidarity messages to colleagues on strike in Greece today.

The Greek government is trying to shut down the public broadcasting organisation's three TV stations, radio and regional radio stations, satellite emissions and internet portal with the sacking of all staff. The Greek trade unions have responded by organising a general strike in support of journalism and media workers.

ERT journalists continued to resist the closure and are broadcasting live from the occupied studios in Athens.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The shocking announcement on Tuesday of 2,700 job cuts and the closure of public broadcaster ERT has been roundly condemned, this immediate response has been inspiring to us.
"The break down of the public media in Greece is a barbaric act that has been inflicted on journalists and media workers as part of an increasingly vicious austerity programme.
"We are not prepared to pay for the economic crisis we did not create. The decision of the state to close down ERT must be reversed. It is an appalling attack on the media and on Greek democracy.
"Our unity as journalists and media workers in solidarity must gives us strength. The NUJ in the UK and Ireland stands up for journalists and offers support and assistance to colleagues - we reject attempts to divide us from our humanity and we are united to stand up for journalism."

Irish support

The NUJ Ireland broadcasting branch will hold a demonstration on Thursday outside the Greek Embassy on Pembroke Street in Dublin, Ireland.

Gerry Curran, Cathaoirleach of the NUJ Irish Executive Council, will travel to Athens on Thursday to meet with trade unionists and broadcasters and express support from the NUJ. He said:

"The NUJ offers solidarity and support with a visit to ERT workers - the Greek government closed down the station with only a few hours notice with 2,700 workers let go.
"I am bringing the messages of support from the 3,000 unionised NUJ journalists in Ireland.
"This is an attack on independent thought and on professional fact gathering. It is an attack on news - an attack on the essence of democracy and a stealing of the nourishment our minds need - especially in times of hardship."

NUJ support in London

David Campanale, chair of the BBC London branch, said:

"Broadcast journalists in the National Union of Journalists at the BBC in London send our solidarity and support to all our colleagues at ERT and to the Greek public staging protests in Athens against the closure. We stand with them in opposition to the Greek government's act of cultural vandalism.

"Public service broadcasters, independent from both the government and the commercial imperative are the lifeblood of free and open societies. The decision to close ERT should have been subject to democratic debate and decision-making in parliament - not through a shabby deal between two government ministers. It must be reversed."

London protest

The NUJ supported the solidarity protest in London on Wednesday 12 June outside the Greek embassy.

In a message to the journalists and media workers assembled at ERT on the night of the closure announcement (Tuesday), Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), said:

"We are angry that you, your families and children, should be made to pay for a crisis that is not of your making. For many years, this crisis, caused by the greed and incompetence of bankers, businesses and politicians, have put at risk your standard of living, your wages and your pensions. Now it has taken away your livelihood.
"What happened to you breaks our hearts, it makes us angry but most of all makes us determined to fight alongside you. The message of the journalists of the world to your politicians and your bosses is loud and clear - we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you to stop this madness - and we will do everything within our power to get this decision reversed."

Messages of support can be emailed to campaigns@nuj.org.uk.

Sign the petition

Avaaz has launched a petition to Stop the shutdown of Public Television in Greece.

UK parliament - Early Day Motion

EDM 234 - Closure of public service broadcaster in Greece

That this House condemns the decision of the Greek government to shut down the public broadcasting organisation ERT's three television stations, radio and regional radio stations, satellite emissions and internet portal which together employ approximately 2,700 people; notes that the decision was taken without democratic debate in the Greek parliament; further notes that whilst it will re-open this will be on the basis of significantly reduced staffing levels; regrets that employees at ERT were given very little notice when the government shut off its transmitters; believes that Greece needs a reliable news source given the desperate time for the country, the economic situation and rise of dangerous far-right groups; therefore sends its support and solidarity to all the journalists who have been treated in this disgraceful way; and calls on the Greek government to reverse this damaging decision.

Ask your local MP to support

Messages of support

Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary:

"The TUC condemns the decision of the Greek government to close down ERT the public broadcaster. This is one of the latest austerity measures that would do nothing to restore economic growth in Greece. On the contrary, it will increase the number of jobless and deprive citizens of access to independent information, a pillar of democracy.
"For these reasons the TUC stands in solidarity with ERT workers and supports their call to reverse this decision.
"We stand besides Greek workers in their struggle against austerity, it is high time that Prime Minister Samaras and Europe changed course."
Elizabeth Marriott, NUJ Member, Moray, Scotland:
"Stand tall in Greece: you are on the knife edge of economic disenfranchisement taking hold on a global scale. What is happening to you is horrendous. Public broadcasting assets belong to the people who pay for them: don't let them be closed or taken away! Thinking of you with much concern and good wishes."

Chad Neighbor, Montrose, Angus, Edinburgh Freelance Branch:

"I wholeheartedly support protests by the National Union of Journalists and other bodies and individuals against the wholesale sacking of Greek television, radio and internet journalists. This is a misguided, short-sighted and foolish attempt to reduce spending."

Diana Shelley, NUJ member:

"I was shocked to learn of the decision to close ERT, both as a journalist and as someone who campaigned for democracy in Greece before and during the dark days of the colonels. To shut down a public broadcaster is an attack both on the media and on democracy, and reminds me more of April 1967 than the 21st century. I fully support Greek colleagues in their struggle to uphold the principles of journalism."

Jane Hammond, Public Relations Branch, NUJ:

"As a public relations practioner and journalist, a member of the NUJ since 1963, I absolutely condemn the ERT closure on two counts: it deprives the Greek nation of a non-commercial voice which can be expected to present news and comment free of vested commercial interests and it abruptly terminates the livelihoods of 2,700 working journalists.
"Any closure of any channel as important as a national broadcasting service should have been the subject of detailed, informed discussion, so that Greek legislators could consider the matter and, in particular, the effect on the birthplace of democracy itself of such cultural vandalism. I hope that the outcry against this, both nationally and internationally, will lead the Greek Government to think again and reverse its decision."

Patric Cunnane, NUJ member:

"The NUJ is absloutely right to stand up for Greek broadcast journalists. The closure of ERT is a shocking move by the Greek government and must be resisted internationally. Please keep me informed of any further actions in London and how we can help the 2,700 colleagues who have been sacked."

Shirley Davenport, NUJ member:

"How ironic that democracy should be undermined in the country where it originated. A free and unfettered media is a vital public defender in this age of deception and corruption. Let us give every support possible to fellow journalists in Greece."

Phil Sutcliffe, NUJ member from London Freelance Branch, also Freelance Industrial Council and NUJ National Executive:

"Dear ERT colleagues, This is as terrible a blow to your country as it is to you as individuals doing a valuable job and wanting a decent life. It's impossible for ordinary people like me to see how putting thousands of citizens out of work and at the same time massively undermining informed democracy can possibly help Greece out of its troubles. I hope your jobs - and sanity - are soon restored."

Redbridge Trades Union Council in east London, UK:

"...condemns in the strongest possible terms the Executive Order from Greek Prime Minister Samaras closing down the Greek state broadcasting system ERT. We send this message in solidarity with the massive political opposition in Greece to this move, which will cost 2,700 jobs and silence a significant media outlet. Redbridge Trades Union Council sends its full support and solidarity to the Greek trade unions taking strike action to defend the service."

ETUC statement

The Unions' response to closing down ERT – public television and radio broadcasting – is a 24-hour general strike.
The GSEE and the ETUC express solidarity with ERT employees.
After the shock decision by the Greek government to shut down the Hellenic Public Radio-television, ERT, the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) Executive Committee decided in an extraordinary meeting to stage a 24-hour general strike today and organise a rally outside the broadcaster's headquarters in a northern Athens suburb.
We call upon working people to express their solidarity with ERT employees who were dismissed overnight and protest against the decision outside the ERT premises.
Trade unions together with Greek society, which is suffering under the painful and unilateral austerity measures imposed by the Greek government, were caught unaware by the shock announcement. They denounce this unprecedented authoritarian and anti-democratic decision as a "coup d' état".
In their meeting yesterday with the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Bernadette Ségol, and the GSEE President, Yannis Panagopoulos, expressed their disagreement with the decision and strongly denounced the closing down of ERT.
It is a joint and non-negotiable GSEE and ETUC position that ERT belongs to the Greek people and is accountable only before to Greek taxpayers, who pay for public broadcasting.
The GSEE will join forces with ERT employees and will fight to reverse this decision.

UNI Global Unions statement:

Media unions worldwide oppose closure of Greek public broadcaster ERT – a call for resistance
UNI MEI Global Union joins all workers at the Greek public broadcaster ERT and their trade union POSPERT in their protest over the immediate closure of ERT.
In response to the demands of the Troika asking for further dismissals in the Greek public service the Finance Minister abused emergency powers to stop ERT's transmissions and shut down all public and TV stations in Greece as of today.
We call on Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, to reverse this incomprehensible and dangerous decision immediately, said EURO-MEI President William Maunier (SNRT-CGT, France).
On behalf of all broadcasting workers represented by our affiliates we oppose the Greek's government decision to shut down ERT. This decision will deprive citizens of a vital pillar of democracy. It will punish a dedicated, passionate and skilled workforce that has made sacrifices over the past years to modernise ERT and meet the financial challenges.
The ERT is fulfilling an important role in the Greek audiovisual and broadcasting landscape by providing inclusive and diverse programming, promoting the cultural heritage and giving access to major events and non-mainstream programmes at the same time. It ensures local and regional cohesion thanks to its important well run network of regional radio and TV stations. Greek citizens need a modern public media in the digital environment.
UNI MEI President, Gerry Morrissey (BECTU, UK) said "All our broadcasting unions stand in solidarity with POSPERT, colleagues at ERT and citizens in Greece. This is a call for resistance and colleagues across the world will take action to help defend public service broadcasting in Greece."

IFJ/EFJ calls for affiliates to take action in support of Greek colleagues:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have called for affiliates across the world to support their colleagues sacked from Greek broadcasting station TV and fight to reverse the "deplorable" decision.
The IFJ/EFJ are calling on affiliates to show their support by holding demonstrations outside the Greek embassies in their countries. IFJ/EFJ, along with the AVBB (General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium), are asking journalists and media workers to come along to a protest of solidarity outside the Greek embassy in Brussels tomorrow morning at 10am.
Messages of support for the staff at ERT can also be emailed to: dralli@esiea.gr.
A letter, signed by IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, has been sent to Greek Prime Minister Antonios Samaras, expressing the IFJ's "dismay and shock" at the decision of the Greek government to stop ERT's transmission at midnight on Tuesday.
The letter states:
"We condemn unreservedly this development – the first in the history of European broadcasting – and join the European Broadcasting Union to remind you of your commitment in the European Treaty your country signed five years ago recognising public service broadcasting, whose existence and independence lie at the heart of our democracies, as one of the pillars of the media pluralism throughout the European Union."
The letter explains that the IFJ will be mobilising its 180 journalists' member unions across the world to "stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in Greece and help them fight to reverse this deplorable decision."
The letter concludes by stating that the IFJ is willing to work alongside its Greek affiliates to explore solution, but urges the Greek government to "intervene and re-establish ERT's broadcasting forthwith."

Tags: , Greece, broadcasting, ERT, closure, protests