Skip to main content

Greek riot police storm headquarters of former public broadcaster ERT

By Elinda Labropoulou, for CNN
updated 6:57 PM EST, Thu November 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police remove former employees who were occupying the building
  • The occupation began after the government shut down the broadcaster
  • The ex-employees have refused to accept the closure, which caused a public outcry
  • They have been broadcasting online from the former headquarters

Editor's note: iReport: Are you there? Send us your photos or videos, but please stay safe.

Athens (CNN) -- Greek riot police have stormed the headquarters of shuttered public broadcaster ERT, which former employees had been occupying after it was suddenly closed down in June as part of government cost-cutting measures.

Following prosecutors' orders, police entered the building in the early hours of Thursday and removed the former employees inside.

Since the June closure, the former workers, who refused to accept the shutdown, have been broadcasting online from the headquarters. Banners hanging outside the building have been calling for resistance.

Messages urging support for the demonstrators were posted on social media and the website the former employees have been broadcasting from. Some of the posts referred to the storming of the building as an "invasion against democracy."

"This is something which affects the whole world," said Agis Menoutis, a former ERT journalist. Menoutis called the closing of the broadcaster "a new era of news manipulation."

"We will learn only what some powerful people want us to know," Menoutis said.

First debt, then the denial in Greece
Off air, out of work for Greece's ERT TV

A government spokesman said the police operation was carried out "to enforce the law and resume legality."

"The building was under illegal occupation, which resulted in daily damage of public property," said the spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou. "And the operations took place in the presence of a prosecutor."

The government cited chronic corruption and mismanagement of funds as the reasons for ERT's closure. It said a smaller public broadcaster would be set up in its place.

Public outcry

But the sudden decision to switch off the ERT signal and lay off its 2,600 state workers caused a public outcry and cost Prime Minister Antonis Samaras a coalition partner.

In July, a new government-backed entity, Public Television (DT), went on the air to fill the gap until a new broadcaster is ready. DT mainly hired journalists and technicians from ERT and has been broadcasting from a nearby studio, unable to access the former headquarters because of the occupation.

The deputy minister responsible for public broadcasting, Pantelis Kapsis, has held several rounds of talks with former ERT staff, but no solution has been found. Recently, he warned that "the occupation is a problem that must be dealt with," stressing that it is a matter for judicial authorities.

He has also warned that if the public broadcaster cannot be housed at the ERT headquarters, it may not have the infrastructure needed to cover Greece's six-month European Union presidency, which starts in January 2014.

Political tensions

But the main opposition left-wing party Syriza criticized the storming of the building Thursday.

"With today's riot police invasion into the ERT headquarters, the government is completing its absolute dictatorial actions against information and democracy which began on June 11," the party said in a statement.

The evacuation of the building comes just after a 24-hour general strike by public and private sector unions over continuing austerity cuts.

It also comes as representatives of Greece's lenders, who arrived in Athens earlier this week, are holding talks with the government that could determine whether to unlock further bailout money.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT