The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press.
Freedom of Speech: The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech but specifically allow restrictions on speech and sanction individuals who intentionally incite others to actions that could provoke discrimination, hatred, or violence against persons or groups based on their race or ethnic origin or who express ideas insulting to persons or groups because of their race or ethnic origin. Authorities invoked these provisions once during the year, in the case of a member of the far-right Golden Dawn party convicted on September 16 of inciting racist violence in 2012.
On September 9, parliament amended the antiracism/antidiscrimination law to set stricter penalties for individuals or legal entities convicted of incitement to violence, discrimination, or hatred based on race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Courts may sentence violators to three months to three years’ imprisonment, deprivation of political rights for one to five years, and a fine from 5,000 to 50,000 euros ($6,250 to $62,500). The punishment increases if incitement to violence leads to a criminal act or is carried out by a civil servant in the course of duty. The law also criminalizes approval, trivialization, or malicious denial of the existence or seriousness of genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the Holocaust, and crimes of Nazism if such behavior leads to incitement of violence or hatred, or if it is threatening or abusive toward groups of individuals based on race, color, religion, genealogy, nationality/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Violators may be sentenced to three months to three years in prison and a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 euros ($6,250 to $25,000). A new legal provision also sets stricter penalties for racially motivated crimes, in which case a court may sentence violators to an additional six months to three years and a doubled fine.
Press Freedoms: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restrictions. The law permits a prosecutor to order the seizure of publications that insult the president, offend any religion, contain obscenity, advocate for the violent overthrow of the political system, or disclose military secrets. The National Radio and Television Council, an independent regulatory agency, supervised radio and television broadcasts. The law requires television stations to broadcast at least 25 percent of their programming in Greek; the percentage for radio broadcasts varies, depending on the nature of the radio station. The law allows the government to exercise immediate control over radio and television stations in case of national emergency and establishes ownership limits on media frequencies.
On February 27, police arrested six suspects, including a member of the country’s secret service, on a variety of criminal offenses, including conspiracy to murder and drug charges. Kostas Vaxevanis of HotDoc magazine earlier had alleged that these individuals tried to ambush him at his home because of his publicly declared intention to publish a list of more than 2,000 Greeks with foreign bank accounts. The case was pending at year’s end.
Violence and Harassment: Journalists were subjected to arrest and imprisonment, physical attack, harassment, and intimidation due to their reporting. Some incidents involved anarchist groups, Golden Dawn members, or police officers; police opened investigations into several cases.
In May a businessman involved in a car accident in which he was a driver and his bodyguards attacked three newspaper photojournalists covering the incident. Police officers allegedly detained the journalists temporarily, confiscated cameras, and erased footage. Authorities ordered an administrative investigation into the incident.
In July, Golden Dawn supporters attacked two photojournalists covering the trial of a Golden Dawn member. The victims filed a complaint with judicial authorities and criticized police officers for not intervening.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were a few reported instances of censorship and content restrictions. In February a judge attempted to prohibit Mega TV, a national private television station, from presenting an investigative report about a migrant boat accident, asserting the program could compromise a continuing official investigation, but the station broadcast the report. In April a Supreme Court prosecutor instructed the country’s prosecutors to arrest anyone publishing illegally obtained video footage following the release of a video of a private meeting between a Golden Dawn member of parliament and a government official.
Libel Laws/National Security: The law provides criminal penalties for defamation. In April the Hellenic police chief announced that a prosecutor’s order was required for a journalist to be arrested for alleged slander in order to determine whether criminal procedures should be followed in such cases. There were reported incidents of journalists arrested for libel, although authorities released all after they testified.
In January a court determined that a journalist had used insulting language in referring to a Greek monastery and had defamed an abbot in two articles published in 2010 and 2012 and ordered him to pay 10,000 euros ($12,500) in damages.
On February 11, a prosecutor ordered an investigation into the possible illegal transmission of military secrets or militarily important information by a journalist who publicly alleged Greek Navy SEALs had cooperated with police in guarding nonport areas, such as a prison facility. The journalist claimed to have been pressured to remove her report from the internet.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the country’s national statistics agency, approximately 63 percent of the population used the internet as of March.
On January 16, a court issued a 10-month suspended sentence to a blogger charged with malicious blasphemy and insulting religion for a 2012 Facebook page using a name that played on the name of a legendary monk. In a defamation suit against a Wikipedia editor, on February 13, a court ordered the removal of a revised entry about Theodoros Katsanevas, the former son-in-law of a late prime minister. The court order was reversed on September 1. On February 27, a public prosecutor ordered disciplinary action against an inmate who posted photographs online of conditions in a prison hospital, but no penalty was imposed.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.