OSCE Representative denounces arrest of Greek journalists after criminal defamation suit by Defence Minister, urges decriminalization of defamation
VIENNA, 24 September 2018 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today denounced the arrest of three journalists from the Greek daily newspaper Fileleftheros on defamation charges and welcomed that the prosecutor decided not to immediately press charges, a move that led to their release. He called on authorities to decriminalize defamation.
“I denounce the detention of journalists for several hours following criminal defamation charges by the Minister of Defence relating to a story about the alleged misuse of European Union funds,” said Désir. “Political leaders should refrain from bringing criminal charges against journalists for their investigative reporting and need to display a higher tolerance for criticism and scrutiny from the press. Such intimidation of journalists is unacceptable.”
The publisher, editor-in-chief and political editor of Fileleftheros spent a night in jail after being accused of defamation by Greece’s Minister of Defence, Panos Kammenos. The Minister filed charges against them and four other journalists from the newspaper following the front-page article, published on 21 September, on the alleged mismanagement of European Union funds linked to the Defence Ministry.
“I welcome that the three journalists were released and that no immediate charges were pressed by the Prosecutor,” Désir continued. “Defamation should be decriminalized in line with international standards on freedom of expression. I call on the authorities to use this incident as a way to revise the current laws and to decriminalize defamation.”