Mitsotakis on lawsuits against journalists: Right to criticise authority ‘non-negotiable’ in Greece

Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday weighed in on the issue of suing journalists, in a post on his personal account in Facebook, commenting on the lawsuit filed by Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos against article writer and cartoonist Andreas Petroulakis, which comes to trial over the coming days.

According to ND’s leader, this lawsuit was indicative of a “dangerous, autocratic and morally and politically unacceptable attitude” that was increasingly being adopted by Kammenos but “also the entire SYRIZA-ANEL government”.

“We shall stand against this attitude, alongside every democratic citizen…in Greece, in 2017, freedom of opinion and the right to criticise authority are non-negotiable, no matter if some parties seek the opposite,” he said.

Mitsotakis noted that he had often faced attacks from the press that exceeded the limits of “fair political criticism,” but had avoided taking legal action since “I believe that all of us that occupy positions of responsibility and authority must learn to live with criticism, even if this is sometimes malicious.”

While every politician had a right to resort to the courts if he considered an attack to be libellous, the distinction should be made with extreme care so that he or she could not be accused of abusing his or her power and position to deflect fair criticism, of which every politician inevitably became a target, ND’s leader added.

“I carefully reread the article in question by Andreas Petroulakis about Panos Kammenos. It is harsh but, in my opinion, does not go beyond the bounds of political criticism by an article author, who has the courage to put his signature to his opinions,” Mitsotakis said. According to ND’s leader, the fact that Kammenos had filed for compensation, seeking the outrageous sum of one million euros, showed that the goal was not to morally vindicate ANEL’s leader but to “wipe out” the specific journalist and terrorise the rest.