THREATS, BOMBS & AN AL JAZZERA REPORT ON PRESS FREEDOM

At first glance, the threats on the life of an independent reporter and the recent bombings on five journalists’ houses seem to go well together, two cases of attack on press freedom, just as they were presented by Al Jazeera Listening Post. The thing is, on closer examination, they are really very different. And unless more Greek journalists take it upon themselves to report in a way that is useful to an international audience, it will be very difficult to shine a clear light on the atrocities happening in Greece.

A part of this report by Al Jazzera Listening Post highlights a problem that has surfaced as international Media try to shed light on different aspects of Greece’s plight: professional and technical capabilities, even when best intentions are a given, are no substitute for that indispensable raw journalistic material – a solid understanding of realities on the ground.

Most of the Listening Post segment above reports on the threats on the life of an UNFOLLOW magazine reporter, following a story he did on oil smuggling in Greece. Then, towards the end, a side-story is added: five journalists’ homes were recently bombed. And the report is rounded off with a statement by the Athens Union of Daily Newspapers, calling on the State to act before it is too late.

Μainstream Media in Greece is entrenched in a nefarious web of relationships between business oligarchs and powerful political families

At first glance, the threats and the bombings seem to go together, in the sense that they are both instances of violence against the press, and they should be presented under the same light, as attacks on press freedom. The thing is, on closer examination, they should not. And since Al Jazzera is mercifully not a player in the Greek Media’s ideological game, one can’t but conclude that the reason they are bunched together is quite simply an inadequate understanding of what is going on.

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REPORTER THREATENED OVER AEGEAN OIL SMUGGLING REPORT

UNFOLLOW magazine reporter receives threats by man self-identified as oil magnate Dimitris Melissanidis of Aegean Oil, after publishing a report that implicates the company in an oil smuggling scandal.

On January 31st, the latest –14th– issue of UNFOLLOW magazine hit the newsstands all over Greece. Among other reports, we published one on oil smuggling in Greece – specifically the practice of oil carrier companies to buy oil at reduced-tax rates and channel it back into the market at the normal price.

Dimitris Melissanidis

Dimitris Melissanidis

We also published two reports by the 7th Piraeus Customs Authority, with detailed findings on how two major oil companies engaged in this practice. One is ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), where the principal shareholders are the Greek state and Spiros Latsis. The other is Aegean Oil, which is run by Dimitris Melissanidis – albeit without an official position, though his brother, Iakovos, holds a post on the board. Finally, in our report we pointed out that although Aegean Oil officials have been charged with smuggling and forgery, their trial has been postponed four times already, while the state attorneys were absent on all four occasions.

Aegean Oil is truly colossal. Among other things, it supplies the American navy, and one of its associated companies trades in the New York stock exchange. A new trial regarding the smuggling and forgery charges is set for February 12th. Media attention in Greece has been, unsurprisingly, non-existent.

ELPE is set to be fully privatized soon, according to the privatization program imposed on Greece by the troika. The front-runner to acquire state owned shares is Spiros Latsis. At the same time, Dimitris Melissanidis is poised to buy the also soon to be privatized OPAP, the state company that holds a monopoly on gambling.

On the day following the publication of UNFOLLOW 14, February 1st, there was a phone call to the office of UNFOLLOW. The number was +30 210 4586000, the caller asked for reporter Lefteris Charalampopoulos, who has written the report, and identified himself as Dimitris Melissanidis.

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