We live in thoroughly mediatized times

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

It is quite interesting indeed, to see how everything in Greek public life gets deeply mediatised in this extremely tense period.

To start from really serious issues, the ebb-and-flow pattern of tensions over the Greek-Turkish ever-spreading bouquet of disputes is increasingly dictated by the stance adopted in the media. Officials make public statements, then adjust them or even try to make them vanish – the case of Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos over the allegation of Turkish President Erdogan that a mutually agreed back-off over the remembrance day of the Imia incident (1996) and over the presence of Turkish seismic vessel Oruc Reis in Greek sea areas jumps to the mind. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has been trying to defuse the situation…

More importantly, the very parameters of what is acceptable and what is not (even more so: what constitutes an intermediate area, what consequences are to be expected…) get increasingly determined by debate in the media. The official Greek position over having recourse to the ICJ at Hague is that the sole dispute with Turkey to be faced [in such a forum] is the one over continental shelf delimitation [with EEZ thrown in for good measure, since sea areas keep evolving in a Law of the Sea setting]. Just right now, Greek media have started to push to the limelight the unpleasant reality that – whatever the Turkish positions in this context, positions that cannot be shoved aside since an agreement of the parties to refer a dispute is a sine qua non condition to proceed – no delimitation is possible without baselines being drawn. What of the width of territorial waters? What of the status of islets or rocks?

Further on: what of the presence – in the near future – of another seismic vessel, or even of a Turkish drillship like Yavuz in the sea area covered by the Turkey – Libya MOU, bitterly contested by Greece? What of something further to presence – e.g. starting operations? Just imagine photos or live film streaming online…

To be honest one feels better that, with such items on the agenda, the usual political warcries of “treason” or “soft on national issues” have not surfaced in public debate – yet. But the medialization of complex issues always adds to their inherently explosive nature.

The same goes for touchy, recurring issues of an economic content. Two of them have been re-emerging: legal protection offered to home-owners in serious arrears or outright default on their mortgages ends in less than three months’ time; the nth overhaul of the Greek pension system makes for fresh cohorts of losers and winners. Both issues carry a different character of explosiveness, close as they are to the wallet rather than to the heart; both are extremely technical, thus difficult to understand and easy to misrepresent. On both, Greek media have had a field day throughout the crisis years, raising hue and cry – quite successfully. Now feisty Growth-and-Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis has descended preemptively to the fray, sensing that combat will soon start…

So if the Chinese speak ominously of “living in interesting times” , so should we in 2020 Greece reflect on “living in thoroughly  mediatized times”.