Photo: Eleni Vlachou, publisher of the distinguished Athens daily kathimerini, gained widespread respect when she defiantly ceased publication rather than submit to censorship during 1967-74 Greek military junta.

Series: #70YearsIPI: Women of Press Freedom

As part of IPI’s 70th anniversary celebration in 2020, we’re launching a new series dedicated to courageous women editors and journalists whose stories of defending press freedom and quality journalism inspire us. This series – which starts fittingly on International Women’s Day and incorporates material from IPI’s unmatched press freedom archive – begins with IPI World Press Freedom Hero Eleni Vlachou.

“We would never accept to be told what to publish.”

On April 21, 1967, in Greece, a group of right-wing army officers seized power in a coup d’état establishing a seven-year-long dictatorship. After its rise to power, the ruling military junta introduced a new censorship policy, aiming to bend the media to its will. For IPI member Helena Vlachos, the response was clear: she immediately ceased publication of the Athens daily Kathimerini, a distinguished newspaper she took over after her father’s death in 1951, rather than let it become a mouthpiece of authority.

Faced with the prospect of trial before military courts in retaliation for her silence – her  protest against the regime’s attempts to control the press – she refused to submit to governmental pressure and republish. “We would never accept to be told what to publish”, she explained.

Her defence of press freedom was unyielding throughout government’s threats and promises. “In my view”, she said, “it is the duty of every journalist to face the threat and continue to serve the readership come what may.”

In September 1967, due to her outspoken interviews, Vlachos was put under house arrest from which she still managed to make the world turn its gaze towards Greece. In October 1967, in a letter addressed to the IPI Secretariat, then in Zurich, she passionately urged the world not to turn its back on Greece and press freedom.



She escaped from her house arrest to London where she remained in a political exile until 1974. This year she came back to Greece and resumed publication of Kathimerini.

For her tenacity, fearlessness, relentless spirit and heroic defence of press freedom, she was posthumously named an IPI World Press Freedom Hero in 2000.

By IPI Contributor Monika Martinovic

March 8, 2020