Δευτέρα, 3 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Sam Chekwas, the Nigerian who was selling pirated books!!!

We Greeks are ready to believe everyone who sells Philhellenism. Lately, I ve noticed a video going around presenting  Sam Chekwas, a Nigerian who had once a Greek bookstore in Astoria. This man was selling pirated copies of my book "The Lonely Path of Integrity". Hundreds of copies were seized at his store and a legal process began, only to be stopped by his Eminence Archbishop Spyridon who  wanted to forgive  Chekwas for his wrongdoings.

Please, check the background of people who present themselves as heroes!!!

Archbishop Spyridon's Biography on Sale Illegally
The illegal printing and marketing of The Lonely Path of Integrity, written by Justine Frangouli, has been denounced by Exandas Publishers. The book, an authorized biography of Archbishop Spyridon, former Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was first published in December 2000.

Purchasers of the book have alleged that thousands of pirated copies are being sold in various US cities, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas, the owner of a bookstore in Astoria, New York.

Chekwas's illegal activities have been reported both to Exandas Pubblishers and the District Attorney of New York by Stephania and Charis Nikolaou who had bought 100 copies of The Lonely Path of Integrity a few days ago.

However, Exandas Publishers did not limit itself to this alone.

Publisher Magda Kotzia has made a formal complaint to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Publishers-Booksellers, the Association of Athenian Publishers-Booksellers, the Organization of Collegial Administration of Works of Word (OSDEL), the Publishers' Association of Scientific Books, the Publishers' Association of Books and the Book's National Center.

The denunciation stresses the following: "Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography. Exandas denounces the fact that Sam Chekwas sells and resells pirated copies of the book "I Monaxia Enos Asymvivastou" (The Lonely Path of Integrity) in large quantities. This fact constitutes a danger for Greek literature, given that the said publisher has remained the sole distributor and promoter of Greek books in the United States, while he is also preparing a Greek book fair with the participation of Greek publishers."

The denunciation concludes: "We also call upon Greek publishers to denounce the act of Sam Chekwas through public communications in the Greek and American Press and to take all proper measures in order to stop the illegal circulation of pirated copies of our book in the United States."
[Translated from Greek]


Avalaible  at  www.amazon.com

Pirated Copies of Spyridon's Biography in the US
Exandas Publishers denounce their distributor in America for marketing pirated books

Sam Chekwas denies the charges, but does not name his supplier

By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Exandas Publishers, some ten days ago, brought grave charges against Sam Chekwas, a New York bookseller and publisher, for illegally printing and marketing the authorized biography of Spyridon, former Archbishop of America. The biography is entitled The Lonely Path of Integrity and has been written by journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris.

The charge was first made public by the Athens News Agency in a press report by the Agency's correspondent in Canada who also happens to be the author of the biography. The charge gives as sole evidence the denunciation made by Stephany and Harry Nicolaou, a couple who had bought 100 copies from Mr Chekwas and who upon opening the boxes "were shocked to find that they had purchased pirated copies, a fact, according to the press report, they reported to the Greek publisher and to the New York district attorney."

The announcement states that "Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography."

As soon as Proini became aware of the charge, it repeatedly asked Exandas Publishers and the author who meanwhile got in touch with us to provide more facts, including putting us in touch with the Nicolaous and informing us in detail about the charge made before the district attorney. The publishers refused to do so on the grounds that the district attorney had already taken up the matter. According to Proini's information, Ms Nikolaou is a former employee of the Archdiocese who was dismissed a year after Archbishop Spyridon's resignation.

At the same time, since the Exandas announcement spoke of "thousands of pirated copies sold accross the US, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas," our newspaper put these charges to Mr Chekwas himself.

At first, Mr Chekwas told us that he did not remember the Nicolaous and that he had never sold anyone 100 books. The next day he confirmed that he had in fact sold such a quantity of books to some couple. He also stated that apart from the 300 copies received from Exandas Publishers, he had been supplied with only 150 other copies by a book wholesaler in Athens. As his wife was at that time having a baby, our contact with him was broken off for a few days.

In the middle of last week, we were able to locate two alleged pirated copies. The first came from the batch of 100 bought by the Nicolaous and the second from a package of ten copies purchased by another individual. The difference in books sold by Exandas Publishers is obvious, particularly as regards the cover and the photographs.

Concurrently, as a result of contacts with various stores that market the biography and with individuals who have bought it in bulk from Mr Chekwas, our newspaper was able to find that they had taken delivery of more than 550 copies in total.

When our charges were brought to Mr Chekwas's attention, we received the explanation that he too had seen some copy which had not seemed to him to be authentic. Nevertheless, as exclusive distributor for Greek publishers in the US he was not able to cite any measures taken by his bookstore to protect his own interests and those of Exandas Publishers.

When we asked him to name his other Athenian supplier, apart from Exandas Publishers, we were told that as he was planning to go to Athens after Easter he himself wanted to speak to the Athenian supplier first and to investigate the charges.

When one of several self-contradictions he had made was pointed out to him, he told us that there is also another supplier from whom he buys books in Athens (a fact that he had initially concealed) and that until he himself had investigated every aspect of the matter, he did not wish to make any further statement. However, he denied any personal responsibility. He described the figures for the sales of the book as "fantasy" and added that he is the victim of a "conspiracy." He did, however, tell us that he had written to Exandas Publishers and to the book's author, Justine Frangouli. Although he told us that he would send us copies of the letters, he has so far not done so.

A charge against the philhellene Nigerian publisher and owner of the sole Greek bookshop has also been made by another Greek-American lady from Michigan. She had sent him the sum of 3,000 dollars of which a thousand was to be used for the purchase of books to be sent free to certain recipients, while the rest was for the publication of a new book to promote Greek literature.

Mr Chekwas, who cashed only the check for a thousand dollars, sent the lady receipts for the books, before, however, sending them to the addressees. The receipts showed that the books had been paid for, not by the Greek-American lady, but by various recipients. Mr Chekwas explained that, being currently out of stock, he would send the packages as soon as he had been supplied with more books. Yet, since a problem had arisen with the lady from Michigan, he would return her money. The Exandas announcement urged those who had purchased "pirated copies" to return them to the bookseller and demand the immediate return of their money.
[Translated from Greek]


Σάββατο, 1 Φεβρουαρίου 2014

Honoring altruism in the Holocaust!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
This past Monday, on  Holocaust Remembrance Day, a beautiful ceremony took place at Montreal’s City Hall.  During this moving commemoration, the “Righteous Among the Nations” medal and certificate was awarded, posthumously, to Angelo Chalikias, a Greek who saved the life of the Jew, Niso Moustaki, during the Second World War.
The distinction was presented to Chalkias’ widow, Philomena, and his children, Jimmy and Olga, by Israeli Consul-General, Joel Lion, and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashemin in the presence of Montreal Mayor, Denis Coderre, and Greece’s Ambassador to Canada, Eleftherios Angelopoulos, as well as many dignitaries from the Jewish and Greek communities.
The accolade was given to late Angelo Chalikias in recognition of the Jewish people's gratitude for having saved late Niso Moustaki, a Jew persecuted in Greece by the Nazis during the war, at great risk to his own life.
The tribute was meant to shed light on one of the hundreds of stories of Jews in wartime Greece who were victimized by the Germans and on the courage of the many Greeks who risked life and family in order to hide the hunted.
The events that led to Niso’s rescue began in mid 1944. On June 7th  of that year, the German and Greek police ordered the Moustaki family, along with many other Jews living on the Ionian island of Corfu, to congregate on a football field.
Until that day, Niso had been living a comfortable and happy life with his family, swimming and partaking in various sports and enjoying the company of friends. Besides his brother, Shlomo, who sought refuge with his family in a non-Jewish home, the rest of the Moustakis, including Niso’s father, Mordechai, his  stepmother, Rosa, and his brother, Shalom, with his wife and three children, were taken to the soccer pitch without any forewarning.
Two days later, the SS and the police, with the assistance of the Wehrmacht,  initiated the deportation of 1,850 Jews from Corfu to Auschwitz. The process began with the transfer of the Moustaki family and the other Jews living in Corfu to the old fort of the island from which they boarded a ship bound for the neighboring island of Lefkada. Upon their arrival in Lefkada, they were immediately emprisoned in a concentration camp without food or water for several days.
Soon after, Niso, who had been studying the patrolling Nazi guard for days, decided to escape. When the opportunity arose and with his father’s blessing in hand in the hope that at least one member of the family might survive, Niso made a run for it. To avoid being caught, he hid in shops, slept in vineyards, and for a short time, joined up with a group of rebels.
Then, one day, Niso, in dire need of a shave, walked into a barber shop in the small Lefkadian village of Spanohori. There, he was approached by a man who identified himself as Angelo Chalikias and who told him he recognized him as his father regularly frequented Corfu to buy soaps from Niso’s father.
Upon exiting the barbershop, a collaborator of the Nazis attempted to arrest Niso, only to have Angelo appear and whisk him away, claiming that Niso was under his responsibility.
For the following months, Niso would enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Chalikias family which consisted of Angelo, his father, Dimitri, his mother, Olga, and his four sisters, Efthymia, Mavreta, Cleo and Andriana. The family refused Niso’s offer to work in exchange for the food and accommodation they provided.
Dressed as a peasant, Niso would try and mix with the locals. In case he needed to ' disappear,’ the Chalikias home, perched on top of the hill among the vineyards, provided excellent coverage.
Angelo confided that, despite the German surveillance, a boatman was sailing between Corfu and Lefkada and he asked Niso if he wanted to send a letter back home. But, instead of a note, Niso decided that he would go himself. Angelo tried to dissuade him from such a dangerous journey but Niso was adamant in his decision so Angelo provided him with his identity card, replacing his own photo with that of Niso’s.
Pretending to be fishermen, the two arrived at the port of Lefkada where Niso was to depart after nightfall. With tears in his eyes, Angelos refused to leave until he was certain that the boat carrying Niso had cast off.
Niso arrived safely and remained in Corfu until the liberation. Eventually, he left for Israel and settled in Kibbutz Ein Harod where he was married to Malka Amramand and had three daughters. Besides his brother, Shlomo, the entire Moustaki family was executed in Auschwitz.
For his part, Angelo Chalikias continued to participate in the resistance in Greece until war’s end. In 1949, he married Philomena and a year later, in Thessaloniki, they had a son, Dimitri . Seeking a better life for his family, Angelo emigrated to Ottawa, Canada in 1957. Two years later, Philomena and Dimitri followed him to Montreal where his daughter, Olga, was born in 1963.
In 1957, Niso began a correspondence with the Jewish Community of Ottawa. In one of his letters, he wrote, "After he (Angelo Chalikias) heard my plight, through his own free and good will…took it upon himself to hide me...He endangered both his own life and that of his family.”  The letters were discovered by Angelo’s  family after his death in 2012, at the age of 92, and were sent to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority).
On February 19th, 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Angelo Chalikia as “Righteous Among the Nations.” To this day, this honorary distinction has been received by 315 Greeks, including the blessed Archbishop of Athens, Damascus, and Princess Alice of Vatemvergis.
Last Monday was a day of remembrance for the Jews but also a day of honoring the altruism of those who aided their plight during the Second World War.

Τετάρτη, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2014

The Survival of the Hellenic Diaspora: A Current Issue

Hellenism in North America is living a reality that is forcing it to increasingly succumb to its melting pot surroundings. Its distant roots, the cessation of immigration from back home, the mixed marriages and the education systems of the host countries are all contributing to a day-by-day mitigation of the Greek conscience on this side of the Atlantic.

The opinion makers of the Hellenic Diaspora tend to believe that the Church is destined to become the last bastion of Hellenism as they foresee a growing number of second, third and even fourth generation Greek-Americans opting to celebrate their marriages, baptisms and holy feasts under the Greek Orthodox banner.

However, Orthodoxy in and of itself can not be a source of renewal of ethnic identity as it is not a religion or doctrine that is exclusive to the Greeks. Unlike Judaism that is unique to the Jewish Diaspora, for example, Orthodoxy does not provide for a historical designation of the Greek Diaspora as it is a faith that is shared by the Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians and other Balkan peoples.

Consequently, other levers must be used in tandem with Orthodox traditions in order to encourage the Hellenes of coming generations worldwide to adopt and feel closer to their Greek roots:

1) The teaching of the Greek language:
It is crucial to understand that language is an essential tool for the preservation of Hellenism in the Diaspora as the Greek language is the basic tool that fosters communication with the Motherland, enabling the young Hellenes to connect with Greece's culture, history and art. The issue of Greek language instruction should not be relegated to the backburner but one whose promotion must be encouraged whatever the cost;

2) The Acquisition of Greek Citizenship:
The possibility of obtaining Greek citizenship is a hereditary right and can be very useful to those in the Hellenic Diaspora who seek employment in the European Union. Just like their neighbors, Greeks are considered citizens of Europe and are free to work and live anywhere in the EU. This valuable tool should be used to sell young Greek-Americans on the benefits of being Greek;

3) Networking:
As with any other group, the creation of associations, institutions, chambers of specific interests (such as the association of Greek-American doctors or lawyers) can enhance ties among the young Hellenes of the Diaspora. Having their Greek origins as a common denominator, networks must be developed to promote these historic ties;

4) Creating Websites of Greek Special Interest:
Offering the opportunity to connect without borders, the digital age can be used to promote musical, personal or professional interests among Hellenes worldwide and enable them to enhance their identity through communication;

5) Renewal of the Institutions of the Diaspora:
Unfortunately, Greek associations and communities abroad have become outdated entities. New institutions that rely on less traditional systems should be built in order to generate common interest among young Hellenes in their origins;

6) The Support of Politicians of Greek Origin:
The mobilization of young Greek-Americans in support of candidates of Greek origin can be a powerful motivating and uniting force;

7) Other Sources:
Many other sources of support exist with which to ensure the survival of Hellenism in the Diaspora such as the establishment of Greek Studies Chairs in universities and the export of Greek culture by funding touring Greek theater troupes and establishing Greek Film Festivals. Nothing can be more stimulating to the patriotism of the Hellene as the witnessing of a performance of ancient Greek drama.

Alongside the Greek Orthodox Church which has proven to be the cornerstone of the Hellenic Diaspora through the years, it is time for its leaders to find more innovative ways to ensure the survival of Hellenism in North America.



Follow Justine Frangouli-Argyris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Justinakion

Τετάρτη, 22 Ιανουαρίου 2014

A terrorist on the loose

One of Greece's most notorious terrorists and member of the armed guerrilla group 17 November, Christodoulos Xiros, disappeared on January 6th while on a holiday prison furlough.  The resulting countrywide manhunt for the fugitive who was serving six life sentences has produced nothing but his car, causing widespread concern in the Samaras government.

Certainly, one can not help but wonder how the Greek prison system can grant leave to members of terrorist organizations who have been convicted of multiple murders, especially one like Xiros who was allowed to return to his residence in Halkidiki, a place not far from Greece's northern border that would make it easy to flee abroad.

This week, Christodoulos Xiros, in Osama Bin Laden style, posted a video and memorandum on the electronic website Indymedia  threatening a major armed attack against the Greek government, accusing it of treason for ruining the country with its incessant austerity measures. In the video, Xiros appears amongst a backdrop of posters depicting numerous heroes of Greece's war of independence such as Georgios Karaiskakis, Theodoros Kolokotronis and Aris Velouchiotis as well as that of Che Guevara.

There were reports that the anti-terrorist squad had identified an Internet café in the  Kessariani district of Athens from which they believe Xiros' sent his message, parts of which read as follows:

"...First of all, democracy died long ago and its distortion has been so blatantly fascist that its remnants are bound by the thorns of the swastika.

Do not pretend the heroes and the saviors while you are murdering the youth for 1.40 euro and you do not care less.

Do not pretend to us, you mass media traitors, slaves of the lenders, collaborators of the Fourth Reich.

It is natural that my exit has caused panic and terror to you and to those you serve! But not to the society and the people!

You are on the other side, you tools of those who destroyed us.

We will not be fooled anymore.

Nothing will save you, neither the Dachau you are planning nor the armies of mercenaries.  Whatever you do, very soon the river's wrath will flare up and drown you!

And be warned!

Now, at the last moment, instead of shouting hysterically, instead of preparing tougher laws and harsher repression that shows the measure of your democracy, you better prepare yourselves because the reign is over and you have not noticed!

We do not want your benefits, hold them to give to your pimps!

We want our rights and we will win them with a gun in our hands.  We ask no favors from anyone and especially not of you the slaves..."</blockquote>

Xiros' note may have targeted the authorities, but his video was addressed to the Greek citizens, to a public that is suffocating under the relentless austerity demands of the troika that have resulted in a Greek economy that has shrunk by 25 percent since the onset of the crisis and in an unemployment rate that has reached an astounding 27.5 percent.  

Xiros was speaking directly to the 40,000 Greeks who wait in line to be fed in the country's soup kitchens daily, to the countless destitute who have committed suicide and to the many with no other choice but to send their children abroad in hope of a better future. 

Given the circumstances, Christodoulos Xiros is becoming particularly dangerous as he is not simply spewing extremist, left-wing nonsense but, rather, tugging directly at the heart of a wounded Greek nation that has come very close to erupting on many occasions. While he is on the loose, the authorities had better be particularly mindful of his rhetoric and, when and if he is apprehended, they must put a stop to the granting of 'vacations' to deadly terrorists.

Σάββατο, 28 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

ANDREAS PAPANDREOU: A truthful biography!!!


The Making of a Greek Democrat and Political Maverick

I.B. Tauris, July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-78076-080-3, ISBN10: 1-78076-080-9,
6.175 x 9.250 inches, 256 pages,

Greece in the 1960s produced one of Europe's arguably most controversial politicians of the post-war era. The contrarian politics of Andreas Papandreou grew out of his conflict laden re-engagement with Greece in the 1960s. Returning to Athens after 20 years in the US where he had been a rising member of the American liberal establishment, Papandreou forged a social reform-oriented, nationalist politics in Greece that ultimately put him at odds with the US foreign policy establishment and made him the primary target of a pro-American military coup in 1967. Venerated by his admirers and despised by his detractors with equal passion, the Harvard-educated Papandreou left in his wake no clear-cut answer to the question of who he was and what he stood for. Andreas Papandreou chronicles the events, struggles and ideas that defined the man's dramatic, intrigue-filled transformation from Kennedy-era modernizer to Cold War maverick. In the process the book examines the explosive interplay of character and circumstance that generated Papandreou's contentious, but powerfully consequential politics.



"The author has done a marvelous job of research on Andreas Papandreou and has brought him back to life." – Professor Dale Jorgensen, Harvard University"Spyros Draenos has chosen a difficult and elusive topic – Andreas Papandreou – and has managed admirably to walk the tightrope of objectivity balancing between hagiography and demonization. He highlights the ambivalence of a brilliant man (Andreas) torn between the lure of academia and the charm of politics and between the vastness of America and the primordial call of a return to his roots." – Ted Couloumbis, University of Athens"Discovering and presenting the 'real' Andreas, his personality, ideological underpinnings, and lasting achievements is a Herculean undertaking that requires special skills and talents. [...] Stan Draenos has proven himself equal to this formidable task and all who study Greek politics owe him a debt of gratitude for his remarkable accomplishment. [...] He has produced a political biography that is highly readable, penetrating, and rich in detail and analysis. Draenos' work is bound to remain the bench mark against which the efforts of future biographers will be measured." – John O. Iatrides, Southern Connecticut State University"Spyros Draenos has produced the first serious attempt in English to analyze the career and personality of one of the most fascinating and complex Greek political leaders of the 20th century, Andreas Papandreou. During his long tenure as prime minister, Papandreou infuriated his western allies, but also played a major role in transforming Greece into a modern European state. This book will be essential reading for anyone who wants to know how and why." – Monteagle Stearns, US Ambassador to Greece, 1981-1985

Stan Draenos holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of York (Toronto). A political analyst, historian and consultant, his articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Historical Review, Salmagundi, Ta Nea and the Los Angeles Times. He served for several years as Historian at the Andreas Papandreou Foundation and has been a Contributing Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC and a Research Fellow at Princeton University, as well as a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan, City University of New York, the Greek National Research Foundation and the University of Macedonia.

Preface: In Search of Andreas Papandreou * A Prodigious Youth * The American Years * Return to Ithaca * The Leap * First Victory * Breaking In * The National Question * A Fateful Dynamic * Worsening Malaise * The Path to the People * ASPIDA * Collision Course * Apostasy * New Realities * Andreas Rising * Pivot Point * The Pathos of Change * Derailment * Descent * Free Fall * End Game * Epilogue * Endnotes * Select Bibliography


Τρίτη, 24 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Orthodox Christmas, a Message for Humanity

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The Huffington Post

Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being,
and the Earth offers a cave to him whom no one can approach.
Angels with shepherds give glory
and magi journey with a star,
for to us there has been born
a little Child, God before the ages.

Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
We have found delight in secret, come, let us receive
the joys of Paradise within the cave.

-- Orthodox Christian Contakion (hymn)

During these holy days, my father, being Greek Orthodox priest, was always sure to remind us children about the true meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ as it is understood in the Greek Orthodox tradition. Apart from explaining the origins of the traditions that decorate this sacred instant of Christianity such as the trees, the ornaments and the special baked goods, he always took the time to depict the celebration in a most simple way so that we could understand its true meaning.

I remember sitting around the fireplace on Christmas Eve and listening to his soft narration about the symbolism surrounding the 25th of December. He would always begin by showing us an icon of Jesus in the manger among the animals and describe how the birth of the Savior fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah by being born of a virgin and shedding his blood to atone for our sins.
"God became a man in order to save humanity from Adam's sin," he would say.
He was given birth in a humble cave in Bethlehem with the animals providing warmth with their breath. The appearance of Christ on earth in such humility shows that Jesus arrived with the very humanistic message that God was not a punisher but, on the contrary, a compassionate creator.

We would listen attentively as he recounted how Jesus birth was synonymous with humility, compassion, love, understanding and peace in the world and that he came here to baptize mankind in the virtues that had vanished after Adam. Perhaps the deepest spiritual meanings were beyond our comprehension but, in our eyes, my father's words, spoken as they were, brought to life the true magic of the event. To us, Dad was a saint, eternally emphasizing the ideals of Christianity, repeatedly espousing its forgiveness and compassion and telling us that we were truly blessed to be able to understand the meaning of this holy time.

Then, it was on to the fasting table. Mom would prepare lentil soup without oil which we would eat along with the "stavros," the holy bread in the shape of the cross that was baked using only strict fasting ingredients.

The following morning, dressed in our "Sunday best," it was off to church to partake in the Orthodox Christmas liturgy officiated by Dad celebrating the birth of Christ.
Listening to the "troparia" or words of the divine liturgy, special for the Day, I remember my father describing how Jesus rebirth denotes a message of forgiveness and recreation of mankind." For me, it was a tremendously joyous time, as I was thrilled to feel that I was experiencing this glorious event with soul and mind.

Lunchtime would follow, beginning with the Lord's prayer and the cutting up of Christ's bread, "the Christopsomo," a special feasting bread baked with the richest of goodies and the carving of the turkey roasted with all of Mom's love and expertise.

In contrast to the rampant consumerism of today, my memory often wanders to those wonderful times that remind me of the true meaning of Christmas . As time passes, I feel that the rest of the world should focus more on this message!



Follow Justine Frangouli-Argyris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Justinakion

Τετάρτη, 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

Greek National Television: Of Raids and Deficiencies

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The Huffington Post

The Greek public and the international media were left speechless last Thursday after the decision of the government to send Athens police on a pre-dawn raid to evacuate the headquarters of the country's national broadcaster. Involving the use of strong-arm tactics and tear gas, the order was given to put an end to the prolonged occupation of the building by a smattering of fired journalists who refused to leave the premises when ERT was permanently shut down in June.

At the time, I was one of a small minority of Greek journalists and citizens who considered that the shuttering of the public broadcaster was a correct policy decision, believing that it was a demonstration of the Samaras' government's determination to commence much-needed and long overdue structural changes to the country's public sector.

Unfortunately, however, the events that would follow ERT's closing this summer, would belie any hope of a government ready to clean house but, rather, depict an administration devoid of any plans for a proposed cleaner, leaner broadcaster. For, a few short weeks after the turmoil, the birth of New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television, or NERIT, was proclaimed but, instead of proceeding in a fresh direction, the government quickly re-hired an overwhelming number of politically tied and connected former ERT employees to fill the majority of the new positions.

The new corporation appeared to have no qualms with the poor resumes of its candidates nor did it seem to fret about the fact that many offers were given to those holding more than one job, even though new guidelines forbid such practices.

At the same time, the administration has failed to provide proper compensation to its terminated ex-ERT workers as was promised. As of October 18th, the due date of the third and final instalment, hundreds of ERT's 2,650 former employees remained unpaid. Under Greek law, such inaction could lead to the layoffs being declared null and void and force the government to reinstate them.

Given the utter chaos that ensued, government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou, attempted to explain the government's reasons for sending in the riot police by declaring, "Police intervention in ERT was done in order to apply the law and restore legality. The building was under illegal occupation, resulting in daily losses for the Greek government and the intervention took place in the presence of the prosecutor."

The public outcry was such that the opposition SYRIZA party tabled a motion of non-confidence in Parliament on Sunday but that was easily defeated by the New Democracy government with the support of its coalition partner, PASOK.

It is unfortunate that, at a time when Greece's image in the world is suffering in the wake of the debt crisis, the government continues to show an inability to deal with everyday events, lacking consistency and continuity in its decision making and resorting to the use of force where negotiations can resolve matters more amenably.

The country will be assuming the rotating presidency of the European Union this coming January and must have a properly functioning and professional public broadcaster in place at the time. It appears highly unlikely that NERIT fits the bill, stacked as it will be with re-shuffled, politically connected, old hacks.

It is unfortunate that the Greek government had the daring to make the politically risky but astute decision to put an end to a corrupt and decrepit ERT only to have it replaced by what is shaping up to be a NERIT that is its clone.



Follow Justine Frangouli-Argyris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Justinakion