Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death of Greek journalist Sokratis Gkiolias unleashes wave of rumours and speculation in local media

The Greek mainstream media has been having a field day with the tragic death of 37 year old journalist Sokratis Gkiolias yesterday, shot 13 times by three men outside his home in the Athens suburb of Ilioupoli by serving up ever wilder stories about terrorist attacks on the country's media. One TV presenter, Popi Tsapanidou even went as far as to say that the event was "Greek journalism's 9/11" on Skai TV channels morning news program.

However, behind the hysteria and rampant speculation there are many aspects of the case which do not add up. According to official police ballistic reports the weapons using in the murder have been linked to the terrorist group, Sect of Revolutionaries (Secta Epanastaton) which appeared on the scene for the first time in early 2009, in the wake of the widespread rioting and social turmoil that followed the shooting of 15 year old teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer in central Athens.

Since then the group has been linked with a series of highly organised, often bloody attacks on police officers, news outlets and banks. These hits have been marked by the sophisticated tactics, indiscriminate violence and large amounts of explosives. However, the nature of the Gkiolias's death owes more in style and substance to a gangland hit. The use of three shooters, the large number of bullets and the fact that the killers apparently disguised themselves in something akin to police uniforms (according to eye witnesses) is more reminiscent of the contract killings that sometimes take place in Greece when different criminal gangs seek to resolve their differences.

Also the choice of target is problematic as Sokratis Gkiolias was neither a member of the police force nor a high profile media personality. As the manager of a radio station and supposedly connected with the controversial Troktiko blog (though the exact nature of the connections still remains unclear) he was not a household name in Greece.

These doubts have not stopped the mainstream print and electronic media in Greece from promoting the idea of this as a terrorist act and the sense of fear amongst them is palable as the major TV channel's talking heads seek to paint this as an attack on free speech in particular and democracy in general.

As with so many aspects of Greek public life the truth lies hidden beneath layers of deception, half-truths and calculation that sound more like the plot of an Oliver Stone movie than real life. It seems unlikely that the culprits will be brought to justice any time some, despite government statements to the contrary. There are few leads and the country's anti-terrorism unit has a dismal record in building cases. Despite a string of attacks the authorities admit they have few leads on who exactly the Sect of Revolutionaries are. One only has the remember the 17 November organisation who were able to act with impunity from the mid 70's to 2002, their run of bombings and killing only stopped when one member was unlucky enough to be badly injured when an home made explosive device went off prematurely.

It's hardly surprising that given the dearth of leads and lack of convictions many Greeks across the political spectrum believe that elements within the state (known as "parakratikoi") maybe behind the attacks though reasons for this are wildly diverse. Whether there is any truth at all in such claims is less importance perhaps than in people's willingness to give them credence. Yet another indictation that the Greek's confidence in their public institutions is at rock bottom the victim not only of the current economic crisis but also a legacy of corruption and scandal no government is willing to eradicate.


development catalyst said...

it's sad when journalist are silenced by bullets.

Simon Baddeley said...

Mainstream 'churnalism' is ambushing this tale of a blogocrat's murder with weasel words and vaguely sourced allegations!
I follow Iason but am not happy with this piece.
I'm following you on this.

teacher dude said...

The mainstream media's view from the first moment was that this was a terrorist hit,based solely on official police report. There was a concerted effort especially on TV to sell this view as hard as they could.

Now the story is dead. Nobody at all is talking about it which is another strange aspect of the whole case. It just dropped off the radar screen within less than 48 hours.

As far as Athanasiadis's story is concerned it's a pretty accurate summation of how the Greek language mainstream and new media are presenting the death.

The problem is that nobody has any real idea why the murder happened. So there is plenty of room for speculation. I've tried to avoid putting too much of it in my posts because there is little to back up any particular version.

Suffice to say any evidence put forward by the police must be taken with a pinch of salt but that may have more to do with the need to look ike they are on top of things than any dark conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...

As I recently posted on the Economist regarding this story: Come on people, when an investigative journalist gets whacked you only have to go as far as the slimeballs he was about to 'out' in his stories to find out who dunit. Terrorist groups? Right. What is the Greek state now trying to do, create a diversion "boogyman" to cover their ass like the Bush administration in America did with its "War on Terror?"

Folks, there are two types of mafia--those who just quietly pay everyone off, and life goes on in the foodchain; and those who are willing to 'take out' anyone who gets too close to the truth about their corruption. Greece for many years enjoyed the first type from the government on down the line. Now, due to the unbearable stench in this little country, the second type is raising its ugly head.

There are simply too many bad guys out there now doing too many rotten things from the top to the bottom in this once lovely place. The public has just grown tired of the payoff program of its mafias anymore--and in Greece every sector has them.

The truth shall have its day, my friends. Unfortunately it's gonna get rougher as the bad guys in public office and the upper eschelon of dirty business try to keep the brave, honest guys quiet.

"Power to the pen--for it is mightier than the sword!"