Greece: State broadcaster run under workers' control as its closure sparks calls for gov't sacking

Protesters gather outside ERT headquarters in Thessaloniki.

Greece's three biggest trade unions called a general strike today on June 13 in protest at the government's decision to close public broadcaster ERT, the Morning Star said that day.

The decision costs more than 2600 workers their jobs in a context of a huge rise in unemployment due to austerity policies. The move to close the public station is also seen as a big attack on democracy. The only other time it was shut down was during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II.

Thousands of protesters marched to the ERT headquarters to show solidarity with its staff, Mornign Star said. Workers occupied the building on June 11 and continue to broadcast shows online and on frequencies belonging to left groups such as Syriza and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

Syriza had planned a huge protest at Athens Syntagma Square on June 17 to mark one year since it came close to winning elections. The radical party won about 27% of the vote on a platform of rejecting the savage austerity imposed on Greece's people by the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission.

In response to the huge public reaction to the closure of ERT (at just six hours notice), the rally was changed to be a call for the restoration of democracy in Greece, the removal of the “troika” government, and immediate elections.

In a bid to prevent ERT workers from continuing to broadcast, the government disconnected the station from its broadcast tower. ERT workers have declared the station is now under workers’ control, a moved welcomed by Syriza. To prevent any police intrusion into the station, there is now a 24-hour “People’s Cordon” to protect it.

During the June 13 strikes, trains, buses and flights around the country were suspended and hospitals ran on a skeleton staff, Morning Star said.

Spokesperson for the All Workers' Militant Front (Pame) Georgios Milionis said the decision to close the station was “a green light for thousands of layoffs in public organisations”.

Protester Olga Papiossif told reporters: “This has to stop. They want to sell everything in Greece - the TV, the water, everything.”

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party supports the closure, citing ERT as the sort of bloated public service austerity measures need to target for cuts.

However, amid widespread public outrage, ND's coalition partners PASOK and Democratic left have refused to back the decision. Morning Star said they would introduce legislation in parliament to reverse it.

Samaras said he was prepared for talks, the article said, as ND lacks the majority needed to defeat such a challenge.

Morning Star reported that on June 13, cafes and public spaces in Athens were crowded with people watching the ERT broadcasts on laptops and TVs.

Below is a statement by the European Left Party, which unites left-wing parties across Europe including Syriza. It is reprinted from You can watch ERT broadcast live.

* * *

The unprecedented authoritarian decision by the Greek government coalition to shut down the Hellenic Public Radiotelevision ERT, its three TV channels (ET1, NET and ET3) and tens of national and regional state radio stations, resembles situations only seen in the darkest periods of dictatorial regimes.

After the announcement of this decision, the government immediately blocked both digital and analog transmission of ERT and disconnected all telephone lines and internet connections of ERT headquarters in Athens. The government ordered the Police to evacuate two buildings of ERT in the centre of Athens and threatens to evacuate the occupied headquarters within the next hours.

With the decision for the closure of ERT, all its 2656 employees all over the country are immediately fired. This brutal destruction of 2656 households is in full accordance with the expectations of the troika, which has demanded 2000 immediate lay-offs in the public sector.

Thousands of citizens, members of left parties, trade-unionists and activists already gathered yesterday evening outside the headquarters of ERT in Athens, to join forces with the employees who have taken over the building. Similar occupations and solidarity gatherings are taking place all over Greece, in all regional ERT offices.

Journalists remain in the studios and continuously broadcast all the latest information through web tv and radio. Demonstrations of solidarity are also organized since yesterday outside the Greek Embassies and Consulates in Europe and all over the world.

The Party of the European Left denounces the unprecedented authoritarianism of the Greek government and its attempt to censor freedom of speech and information. This government has lost any kind of legitimacy and must leave.

What is happening since yesterday in Greece, reaffirms the analysis of the European Left that the imposition of the Memoranda and the austerity programs goes hand in hand with the escalation of authoritarianism and the suppression of fundamental social and political rights.

The Party of the European Left supports the immediate and massive mobilization of the Greek people, Left parties, trade unions and social movements. The EL demands from all European governments to denounce the actions of the Greek government and it will undertake activist and institutional initiatives on European scale, in order not to allow the censorship of Greek public media.

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