Greece in the sights of international media

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

With Greeks being close to one for every 700 inhabitants of our planet (and one in 40 Europeans, post-Brexit), with Greece’s GDP representing some 0.4% of global GDP (and close to 1% of EU GDP), Greece has been usually over-represented in the interest of international media. This is for a number of reasons, most of them of a historical nature. The experience of being under such scrutiny has not been always positive.

True enough, when the country had to live through the austerity induced by successive rescue packages of its Europeans partners, so as not to flounder under de facto bankruptcy, the interest shown by English-language global media served as counterweight to the tough love preached by – mainly – German media, the IMF and (more lightly) Brussels. Media interest was also quite valuable when Greece had to live under the refugee and migrant wave of 2015-16. Last but by no means least, being in the spotlight of global attention proves more than useful whenever tensions mount between Greece and Turkey – which has been occurring quite often in these last years; Turkish revisionism over the Aegean islands and Greek EEZ has to be fought back in court of international public opinion.

However, 2022 Greece finds it difficult to digest international media interest of the kind shown as of lately. Media outlets ranging from Politico to Le Monde, The Guardian to Libération, Handelsblatt to the Washington Post have brought to the surface the recent eavesdropping Greek scandal – with EYP/The Greek Secret Service keeping MEP and Socialist Party leader Nikos Androulakis under surveillance, along with local journalists. The New York Times has even sent a special team to Greece, to track locally the issue. Such foreign media have proved for more diligent than their local, Greek counterparts (with a meagre number of exceptions) – which somehow adds insult to injury.

The same goes for successive occurrences of migrants’ pushbacks at Greece’s sea and land borders, with infamous cases adjudicated upon by the ECHR and equally unpleasant cases of EU/Frontex complicity (which led to the ousting of Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri in late April) coming regularly to the limelight. The likes of Der Spiegel, Euronews, Channel 4 along with the UNHCR and NGOs like Human Rights 360 and the Greek Council for Refugees have kept to the fore the incident of 37 migrants recebtkt stranded on an islet on Evros river (at the Greek-Turkish border). Once more, the local media- with few exceptions – were following the unfolding story, by and large refuted by Greek authorities, at a safe distance.

So, just as Greece felt entitled to some positive and future-looking coverage by international media as it reached the exit of its (decade-long) stint under successive EU/IMF Adjustment Programmes and Enhanced Surveillance (the latter  just ended on August 20), it found itself back on their sights for the wrong reasons.