Greek journalists were 'coached' by IMF to report with pro-austerity bias – ex-envoy

AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
The Greek authorities want to investigate alleged misconduct by a number of journalists who attended seminars organized by the IMF and were allegedly instructed to promote the organization's advice to Greece.

The accusations were voiced by Greece’s former representative to the International Monetary Fund Panagiotis Roumeliotis, who testified Tuesday in front of a special parliamentary committee on the country’s debt. Newspaper Proto Thema published excerpts from the testimony on its website.

Roumeliotis was cited as saying that he accidentally bumped into Greek journalists during a visit to Washington DC, who told him that they were attending a seminar organized by the IMF. The fund held a number of similar events in the US and in Greece with the goal of explaining its operations and apparently was spinning its work positively, he said.

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The former Greek official endorsed criticism by committee member Leonidas Vatikiotis, who said that the seminars were held in an opaque manner and that the journalists afterward became “mouthpieces of the IMF, preachers of austerity, opponents of strikes and public workers.”

The committee said the Greek parliament should demand to know from the IMF who exactly attended the seminars and what they were told there. It also said the Greek journalists’ union ESIEA should be asked to comment on a possible breach of professional ethics.

Only one allegedly IMF-coached reporter has been identified so far – television journalist Yiannis Pretenteris, who, according to Greek Parliament President and committee chair Zoe Konstantopoulou, admitted to going to IMF seminars in a book.

Greek state ERT TV channel correspondent Dimitris Liastos told RT that some journalists have tried to “convince” Greek people of the benefits of IMF policy through privately-owned media.

“It true that many journalists, especially elite journalists working for private channels owned by different oligarchs, have played this role. However, the majority of Greek journalists are in poverty due to this state of affairs in Greece.”

The current Greek government came to power on the promise to pull the country out of painful austerity policies advocated by foreign creditors, including the IMF. Athens is currently engaged in a difficult negotiation with the fund, and is asking to postpone due payment of its debt.