The International Press Institute (IPI) today joined press freedom groups who participated in a mission to Athens in September 2023 in publishing a report on the state of media freedom and independent journalism in Greece.

The report was joined produced by IPI and ARTICLE 19 Europe, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The mission report – Stemming the tide of Greek media freedom decline – was launched at a webinar and press conference on 30 January  and is available to download in English. A Greek translation will follow in the coming weeks.


Key findings

– Media freedom in Greece has undergone a sustained decline in the last few years, amidst the broad-daylight murder of a crime reporter, multiple threats to the safety of journalists, a sprawling surveillance and spyware scandal and numerous vexatious lawsuits and legal threats against media and journalists, with detrimental consequences for Greek democracy.

– These immediate challenges sit atop deeper historical and systemic issues including a problematic landscape for independent journalism, weak media pluralism, prolonged economic threats to media viability, entrenched capture of private media by powerful families and owners with vested business interests, and low levels of trust in media.

– The downward spiral in media freedom in Greece between 2020-2023 dovetails with the election of the centre-right New Democracy party led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in 2019. While media freedom faced serious challenges under the previous Syriza-led administration, the climate has deteriorated further under the current government.

– Amidst the pandemic, increased numbers of attacks on journalists covering health-related protests and the manipulation of state advertising to reward media seen as close to the government led to increased concern amongst domestic and international groups, while the health crisis hollowed out the market and further undermined the finances of Greek media.

– However, it was the assassination of Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz outside his apartment in Athens in April 2021 which represented the hammer blow for media freedom in Greece. While two suspects have been arrested and are due to face trial, the case remains in a state of total impunity and continues to have a chilling effect on the media community and the safety of journalists. The masterminds and the motive of the killing remain unconfirmed. Journalists have also faced arson attacks, physical attacks and violence from police while covering protests.

– A sprawling wiretapping and spyware scandal involving journalists as well as political actors meanwhile placed Greece on the list of EU member states to have abused surveillance tools meant for protecting national security to monitor and spy on journalists’ communications. The lack of accountability for this legal wiretapping, as well as for unresolved yet illegal use of spyware attacks on journalists, has severely undermined source confidentiality and journalists’ digital safety. Serious questions remain about the involvement of the state in the illegal spyware surveillance of journalists.

– Media carrying out investigative and public interest also face legal threats, including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and even criminal defamation charges, which remain within the penal code in Greece. These vexatious lawsuits, often filed by wealthy or powerful individuals, continue to drag legitimate reporting through the courts and take a financial and psychological toll on journalists working in these newsrooms.

– At the wider level, the current Greek media landscape can be characterised by a history of unregulated development, a weak economic market battered by multiple financial crises, combined with the heavy influence and interference of political and economic interests. High levels of concentration of media in the hands of wealthy families and ship owners with varying political connections to the ruling party have contributed to a media ecosystem in which, although there is a high number of media titles, real media pluralism is weak.

– The country’s public service media continue to face financial challenges and questions over their editorial and institutional independence. While the previous crisis at the ERT (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) has been stabilised, the continued oversight of the broadcaster by the office of the Prime Minister poses obvious questions over its neutrality. Likewise, at the national public news agency, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), political bias is visible and sensitive stories which could damage the government are sometimes ignored, while public interest reporting on certain topics is lacking.

– Entrenched media capture, combined with strong societal and political polarisation and a tendency for heavily opinion-based journalism, contribute to Greece often being the lowest ranked country in the EU for trust in media by citizens. This undermines the ability of Greek media unions and groups to advocate and win public support for democratic reforms regarding media freedom. The combination of these challenges means Greek journalism – both in private and public media – face a crisis of credibility.

– While the Mediterranean country benefits from a small but highly professional group of award-winning independent and investigative media publishing vital public interest journalism, these titles remain isolated on the fringes of the media landscape and lack wider public support or readership, despite their recent impact. To retain their editorial independence, many are experimenting with new subscription-based business models which could offer examples for the wider media market.

– Increased scrutiny from the European Union and international media freedom groups in recent years has led to a number of new measures by the government to try and address the situation, including new laws on media ownership transparency and state advertising, and the outlawing of spyware use. Although domestic authorities are verbally supportive of the EU’s actions to defend press freedom, the impact of its domestic reforms have yet to be felt and overall the government’s response does not reflect the severity of the crisis.

– Though reports by the EU have provided negative assessments of the situation for press freedom, and an EU Committee investigating spyware abuse visited Greece in 2022, progress has been limited and stronger action is required by EU institutions and international partners to steer Greece back towards respect for democratic values on free media.

– While the steep deterioration in press freedom that began in 2020 appears to have petered out, much remains to be done to improve the situation. Steps such as the establishment of a dedicated body for the safety of journalists are a welcome step forward, but one which must be improved moving forward. As the challenges for media freedom and independent journalism in Greece are deeply ingrained, any positive developments will require sustained attention from journalists and media, backed by unions, supported by strong political will from the government. Rebuilding the eroded pillars of media freedom will be no easy task, yet one that is essential for the resilience of Greek democracy.


IPI advocacy and reporting on Greece

New report: Media capture in Greece


This mission report was produced as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.