NPR Story
5:34 am
Sat June 16, 2012

Greeks Take Over Reporting As Newspapers Go Under

Originally published on Sat June 16, 2012 12:22 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The austerity measures in Greece have reached into the journalists who would normally cover these elections. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. And in any case, many Greeks feel that the mainstream media are biased, and they're not getting news from alternative citizen-run outlets. Joanna Kakissis reports.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Theodora Oikonomides is leading an English language Internet radio talk show broadcast from a small studio above a cafe bar called Radio Bubble. The bar subsidizes the radio station. Today, she's talking about an incident that shocked the nation, a far right politician attacking two leftist female politicians on live TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERNET RADIO TALK SHOW)

THEODORA OIKONOMIDES: A Golden Dawn MP assaulted physically another two female MPs from the left on a TV show.

KAKISSIS: Outside the station, Oikonomides explains she's one of about 60 volunteers at Radio Bubble.

OIKONOMIDES: Before I started being a citizen journalist, I was an aid worker. I was running education programs for refugees in the Middle East and the Sahara in Africa.

KAKISSIS: She says she returned to Greece hoping to find out about the debt crisis, but most news outlets, TV networks and newspapers disappointed her.

OIKONOMIDES: There is the thought that mainstream media belonged to political parties or are extremely close to political parties and they have a very clear political line. And as a citizen, I feel that I cannot trust anything that I see in mainstream media unless I am able to verify the information from the source itself.

KAKISSIS: She doesn't support the bailout terms. No one at Radio Bubble does. And these citizen journalists are also activists. They demonstrated anti-austerity protests and tweet about their battles with riot police.

Journalist Aris Hatzistefanou says he was fired from his job as a radio host at a major station, SKAI, because of an anti-austerity Web documentary he co-produced. It's called "Debtocracy."

ARIS HATZISTEFANOU: Actually, I was fired I five or six days before we had "Debtocracy" online. I believe that the economic crisis was a pretext in order to get rid of journalists with different points of view on economic and political issues.

KAKISSIS: But that's an over-simplification, says Tassos Teloglou. He works for the TV division of SKAI, the same company that fired Hatzistefanou. Teloglou is the most respected investigative reporter in Greece. He's best known for rooting out corruption using data and documents. He says citizen journalists and reporters like Hatzistefanou, who are promoting anti-austerity views, often don't focus on facts.

TASSOS TELOGLOU: They emotionalize this debate. They don't like talking about numbers. When you squeeze them on number issues, they say, I don't want to talk about numbers. But you can't actually follow that discussion without numbers. It's everything about numbers.

KAKISSIS: Teloglou openly supports the bailout terms, which Greeks call the memorandum. And this got him into trouble while covering an anti-austerity demonstration last year.

TELOGLOU: They stopped me and they asked me to apologize for the memorandum. And I asked them, OK, I apologize, but you should tell me in which way you are going to get paid by the beginning of next month.

KAKISSIS: The group got angry and beat him, Teloglou says.

TELOGLOU: I was in the hospital for three days.

KAKISSIS: Documentarian Hatzistefanou says that the emotions overtaking the arena show the need for rational debate.

HATZISTEFANOU: We are moving toward a society that depends on information. And if you don't have free access to this information, I think that the whole economic system will collapse.

KAKISSIS: For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.