What is the most annoying thing to government? What makes the most difference in times of tension? One might say the press.
Yes, the press, sounds obvious doesn’t it? As citizens we rely on the press to expose abuses of power, to point out inadequacies of governance, to discipline those in command. We need the press, even in times of social media and autonomous, independent first hand reporting. The reason for this is that journalists offer context, can link up events into narratives. We need such narratives as members of a polity to understand the political process and to organise in resistance to policies that harm the common interest.
How does this reflection on the significance of the press in democracy link with what is happening in Greece over the last few days and weeks?
The ‘first time left’ (for the second time, actually) of Mr Tsipras and his far right side-kick Mr Kammenos has elevated hatred of the press to Goebbelian heights. The corrupt, oligarchic, plutocratic etc media have been a target of Mr Tsipras since before he made PM. Funny enough however, such anti-left, anti-democratic corruption did not deter him from having a series of secret meetings with such oligarchs, and did not prevent a good section of the main-stream press, actually supporting Mr Tsipras electoral escapades.
State minister Nikos Pappas (currently standing in for Goebbels it seems) has been pursuing a campaign to ‘clean’ the Greek media of their corruption and to help them see the light of ‘leftist’ adoration. The means by which this is going to happen is by restricting the number of national-wide broadcast licences to an initial 3 (not counting the state ERT propaganda provider), and now apparently expanded to 5. His attempts to explain how all platform media will be ‘reformed’ has sparked international condemnation. He is even rumored to wish to ‘organise’ the internet, so, who knows maybe this will be the last of this blog. Erdogan, another pioneer of press freedom, seems to be making a fair job of it, so why not?
The ‘press’ itself is not uncooperative with Big Brother’s attempts at ‘progress’. The Greek Journalists Association (ESIEA) stroke off its register a number of prominent journalists for supposedly taking a position in favour of NAI in the summer’s farcical propaganda ploy that was the Greek Referendum. It had no problem with the OXI supporting journalists or the filth that streams out of ‘government’ publications on a daily basis. No issue with the ‘Syriza Journalist’ of Paul Mason’s fictional account of Tsipras first reign.
All this is dire, but you have probably heard it before. What is new?
The new thing is that after another bout of successful negotiating, Syriza seems to have helped the Europeans and the IMF untangle the Gordian knot of not being able to agree an appropriate balance of debt-relief, measures, targets for the next few years for Greece. The untangling came though the idea (not novel in fact) of legislating a string of additional fiscal measures that will kick into gear if Greece does not make the targets set. This bridges (elegantly, one might say) the disagreement between the numbers of the IMF and the Commission.
Prof. Tsakalotos went to New York at the IMF meeting to negotiate down the 5.5 billion austerity package he was offered, and came back with that plus an EXTRA 3.5 billion of contingency measures.
The Greeks must be horrified you would think. Actually the Greeks have hardly heard about it as the press is on strike to protest the very same measures (pension reform specifically). Since Thursday 21 April the press has been on strike, and yesterday this strike was extended till next Wednesday (and is due to be extended further). Take a breath and think this through.
What is the most annoying thing for a government? Silence you say?
Are we to stifle Mr Tsipras with a veil of silence? Are we to bother him, while he is busy legislating 9 billion euros worth of cuts by not telling anyone about it?
I think not. I think there is something fishy going on. I think the freedom loving, democracy adoring, pension resisting Journalists Association is taking us for a ride.
Thank heavens for blogging then. You heard of the death of the Greek press here first.