Police outside the ERT building in Athens
Back in June, the Greek government tried and failed to shut down ERT, the country’s equivalent of the BBC. At the time, not particularly enthused about the prospect of losing their jobs en masse, the newly unemployed journalists and technicians occupied the station's studios and continued broadcasting 24/7 via the internet. The staff managed to hold on to the building for an incredible five months, until—acting on the orders of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras—riot police entered the building in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday and escorted everyone outside.
The eviction came after some strategic planning from the government; after being shut down, taking to the internet, and being liberated from the constraints of being a state broadcaster tasked with projecting the state's message, ERT's journalists took the opportunity to heavily criticise the Greek government.
To get around that issue, the government decided the easiest thing to do would be to establish a new state broadcaster, Dimosia Tileorasi (DT). After doing that, they took away ERT's license to broadcast, effectively banning it in the process and creating the legal grounds to end the occupation.
Radio journalist Nikos Tsimpidas, the last person to broadcast on ERT
Presenter Nikos Tsimpidas delivered the last address from the building on the night of the eviction. The 35-year-old was woken up by a colleague at around 4AM and alerted to the fact that riot police were on their way in, before running to the studio and speaking for around 25 minutes until he was arrested.
CCTV footage shows policemen in plain clothing standing outside his studio while he says: “For all the things we tried to defend but couldn’t, now is not the time to wonder why [we couldn’t]; now is the time to jump to their defence once again, for our dignity and our honor. And remember: as soon as this microphone goes silent, what you’ll be hearing won’t be your voice—it won’t be the voice of the ERT employees. The order was just given for me to stop talking. We’ll be going now. We’ll meet each other again.”
A CCTV still of riot police entering the building as the last ERT show is broadcast
Later that night, while crowds gathered to protest, Nikos told me, “Man, it's so much different than what you can possibly imagine. I mean, when I became a journalist, I didn't expect that one day a full unit of riot policemen would enter the studio, stand above my head—while on air—and order me to stop transmitting.”
Five MPs from SYRIZA, the left-wing opposition party, were among the 2,000 people who gathered outside when Nikos was led out. One of the politicians, Nikos Voutsis, tried to get into the building but was denied entrance.
ERT workers crying as the building is evicted
Greece seems to be entering a new political crisis. Responding to the ERT raid, SYRIZA filed a motion of no confidence against the coalition government. The party's leader, Alexis Tsipras, told parliament, “Last night you invaded the public broadcaster, defying any legal procedure. And tomorrow you'll send the police to evict people from their houses because of mortgage loans that cannot be paid back, only because the Troika demands that you do so.”
The news coming out of Greece is definitely not that of a functioning democratic state. In the next three days, the motion filed by the opposition will be discussed in parliament, fuelling tensions that have been growing exponentially over the past few weeks, especially after the murder of two Golden Dawn supporters by unknown assailants.
Shit is once again beginning to hit the fan. But, unfortunately for the Greek people, the closure of ERT means that there's no longer an independent voice to tell the public where exactly all this shit ends up.
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