Greek riot police raid former state broadcaster’s HQ, end journalists’ sit-in
Riot police, accompanied by a public prosecutor, gathered outside
the building in the Agia Paraskevi district in northern Athens,
in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday. They entered the ERT
headquarters and removed about 50 protesters who were
Overall, the operation went peacefully. However, four people were briefly detained, including radio journalist Nikos Tsimbidas, who was broadcasting as law enforcers burst into the studio.
“Believe me, it’s a shocking experience to be on the mic with
two platoons of riot police surrounding the live broadcasting
booth,” he said on air, as cited by Associated Press. “We
are being removed; I’ve just been informed that it appears orders
have been given for me to stop talking.”
Later in the day, police used tear gas to push back a crowd of around 200 people outside the building who came to support the fired journalists. They were joined by some representatives of the Greek opposition, who attacked the government’s decision to oust the staff from the building, comparing the move with a “coup”. Protesters attempted to enter the premises several hours after the raid, but were stopped by police.
“The government… has carried out a coup against itself and
against legality,” a lawmaker for Greece’s leftist party
Syriza, Zoe Konstantopoulou said, as cited by the Greek Reporter
news website. The comment was echoed by fellow MP Dimitris
Stratoulis, who called the operation an “illegal, coup-like
“After the ERT shutdown and the mass layoffs, we have once
more seen the face of state violence and terror,” said
Communist Party deputy Diamanto Manolakou.
The police initially used a pair of handcuffs to lock the ERT
gate and not let anyone into the grounds. The image went
viral on Greek social networks, with many calling it
“symbolic.” Later, the handcuffs were reportedly replaced
by a lock.
Another public rally was called for later on Thursday outside the former ERT headquarters. The Athens journalists union (ESIEA) urged a three-hour work stoppage from 3 p.m. local time in protest against the eviction of ERT employees, reports Kathimerini English Edition.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the evacuation was
designed to “restore the rule of law”. Ruling parties also
defended the operation, with socialists saying that “the
restoration of legality, the free and full operation of public
radio and television is necessary … to protect the public
interest”. The social democratic PASOK party stated
that “No one should be allowed to stop the modernization of
public radio and television in the name of populism and
The sit-it by former ERT employees had been going since June 11,
when the Greek government shut down the broadcaster as part of
cost-cutting measures amid severe financial crisis. All
2,700 staff members were fired.
Those who refused to accept the shutdown continued to work by web streaming their output. They repeatedly turned down official demands to leave the building so that ERT successor – EDT public TV could move in and start full-scale broadcasting.
Following Thursday’s removal the building will be handed over to the new state TV station which has been working from small studios in another part of the Greek capital. A large number of former ERT employees – who initially vowed to protest the closure – were hired by EDT.