La prima pagina del quotidiano Eleftherotypia

The daily Eleftherotypia

The historic daily Eleftherotypia has not been published for over a month. It is not the only one: at least 15 newspapers in Greece have shut down or cut staff, among which is the authoritative To Vima

31/01/2012 -  Gilda Lyghounis

It has not been published since December 22nd. Its on-line version has not been updated. Its 850 staff, a third of which are journalists, have not received their wage since August. We are talking about the second Greek daily newspaper (30.000 copied sold and 85.000 in its Sunday issue): Eleftherotypia, the second most published daily, after the pro-government Ta Nea.

It is as if Italian La Repubblica shut down

Independent even though close to the positions of the center-left, Eleftherotypia is, or better was, much more than just successful amongst readers: it was the first completely new daily to be published in Greece after the fall of the Regime of the Colonels in 1975. It was the first to adopt the tabloid format. It is, in short, as if La Repubblica shut down in Italy. Eleftherotypia, undisputed protagonist of the last 36 years in  Greece’s history of publishing, is the latest victim of the Greek economic crisis.

'We were the newspaper that provided the highest degree of freedom to its journalists – Serafeim Fyntanidis tells us in a tone between bitterness and nostalgia. He was the director of Eleftherotypia for 31 years. Only one rule: do not praise the former King and the former dictatorship. Except for that, we did not serve any economic-political interests, we controlled the work of all governments, both from the center right and from the center left. An example? We were the ones who let the Koskotas scandal break out [the meddler banker to whom the writer Vassilis Vassilikos dedicated “K” and who, in the fall of 1989, dragged down the government of the old Socialist Andreas Papandreu, the father of former Prime Minister George who resigned in November of 2011, writer’s note]'.

Some accused the daily directed by Fyntanidis of having obscure and privileged links to the terrorist group “17 November”, the Greek Red Brigade, put to flight in 2003 after 30 years of lethal attacks: after each murder or robbery, the group had its announcements delivered to the newspaper’s editorial office: ‘You know what the reason was?’ former director continues, ‘When it was first born, everyone thought “17 November” had the CIA or Turkey as their accessories, to create a strategy of tension. So we wrote an article: ‘What if they were a consequence of the times like the Red Brigade in Italy?’. They answered us: ‘You are the only ones to have understood’.

Many in Greece are now ascribing the shutting down of Eleftherotypia not only to its debts (50 million Euros) and the crisis that has hit the Country, but also to the cutting remarks that its editorials had made about the government’s latest austerity measures. Both about the last stages of George Papandreu’s Socialist government, the first to ask for International aids against the Greek economic emergency, and about the present technical government led by Lukas Papademos.

Other newspapers, same fate

Last fall, an 8-million loan from Alpha Bank seemed to buffer the situation. The pawning of the newspaper's building Headquarters and the firing of half of the 850 staff were the price to pay for securing the loan. It was withdrawn, however, at the last minute, some claim by an intervention from former Prime Minister Papandreu. ‘Nonsense – Fyntanidis cuts short – we had already obtained another 16-million loan 16 months ago from Piraeus Bank. In exchange, they requested us the business plan: the present publisher (Mania Tegopoulou, the founder’s daughter) never provided it. Besides, we were the fifth daily to shut down in Greece in the past 2 years (amongst others, the authoritative To Vima, now only published on-line and on paper on Sundays, and the daily Apoghevmatinì) and 2 radio stations. We are 11 million people and have 10 business newspapers: Germany only has 3. In the world, our language is unique for its cultural tradition, but only spoken and understood by few. And now there is also the competition from the network. There was no more room for many newspapers. Unfortunately, for our 850 employees (one third of them journalists) who have gone unpaid since August, it ends here’.

As can be read in the blogs of the editors from Eleftherotypia, the only consolation is a mega-concert to be held on January 30th in Peristeri  Park, Athens’ popular suburb, in support of free press in risk of closure, organized by major Greek artists, including the composer Thanos Mikrutsikos, former Minister for Culture in the ‘90s.

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