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11 Jun, 2013 16:48

Employees seize Greek State TV and radio HQ after govt-announced suspension

Employees seize Greek  State TV and radio HQ after govt-announced suspension

Employees of Greece’s state TV and Radio Corporation have seized the headquarters in Athens following government plans to suspend it under pressure from austerity cuts.

Soon to be laid-off ERT (Hellenic Radio and Television) employees took over the state network’s headquarters on Tuesday night. Witnesses said dozens of journalists and employees were flown to protests at the building in Athens, according to Der Spiegel. 

People gathered outside the Public Radio & TV HQ in Athens. RT @balkanizator twitter.com/Balkanizator/s…#Greece#rbnews#ert

— Kostas Kallergis (@KallergisK) June 11, 2013

Employees have also called for a general media blackout in protest, reports Reuters.

Tension runs high inside the studio of #ert where workers prepare the news bulletin of the channel against its clos. twitter.com/Balkanizator/s…

— Apostolis Fotiadis (@Balkanizator) June 11, 2013

“From this time the ERT has passed to the control of workers, not management,” said former technical director of the company, Nick Michalitsis, speaking to the assembled workers on Radiomegaro.

I wake up listening to #ERT, occupied by employees in protest at sudden death, 4 hrs left until it goes off air.

— Asteris Masouras (@asteris) June 11, 2013

Riot police have been dispatched to deal with protesters, according to local channel Avgi. There has been a further outcry from both trade unions and junior coalition partners.

ERT was described as a “haven of waste” by Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, who made the announcement.  "There are no tolerances for "sacred cows" that remain intact when cuts are being applied everywhere," he said in a statement. Both TV and radio channels will go dead between midnight and early Wednesday morning, causing their 2,500 employees to be jobless until it reopens.

The official cutoff had initially been declared as midnight. However, journalists continued to broadcast following a signal to stop.

#ert journos keep bro/sting even after an ultimatum is published t evacuate building after signal goes off midnight twitter.com/Balkanizator/s…

— Apostolis Fotiadis (@Balkanizator) June 11, 2013

An employee smokes a cigarette at a window of Greek state television ERT headquarters after the government's announcement that it will shut down the broadcaster in Athens June 11, 2013. (Reuters / John Kolesidis)

Kedikoglou made assurances that they would reopen as soon as possible, stating that “the new broadcaster will start functioning soon. The new agency will operate with far fewer staff.”  However, an approximate date was not specified.

The conservative government’s junior coalition partner, Democratic Left, said in a statement on Tuesday that it would be “inconceivable” for Greece to not have a national broadcaster.

International organizations such as European Federation of Journalists and the European Broadcasting Union have spoken out against the move.

Public Broadcaster in #Greece closed tonight for savings! "Absurd decision and blow to democracy", says EFJ President bit.ly/16935Ag

— EFJ(@EFJEUROPE) June 11, 2013

In a letter to Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, EBU President and EBU Director General urged him “to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision.”

Union representatives of ERT workers across three terrestrial TV stations – a satellite state and its radio network stated that they would keep the stations on air.

The Greek economy shrank 5.6 percent between January and March this year, compared to the same period in 2012. The country is obliged to fire some 2,000 civil servants by the end of the year and 15,000 by the end of 2014.

A nationwide strike took place on Friday during which doctors and health workers took to the streets waving banners in protest of the destruction of the health service, including lay-offs of some 26,5000 medical staff.

People sit behind a banner, which reads: "Open", outside Greek state television ERT headquarters after the government announced that it will shut down the broadcaster in Athens June 11, 2013. (Reuters / John Kolesidis)