Why Greek journalists are on strike - and hunger strike

No news today. In Greece retired as well as working journalists find themselves ineligible of their pensions and health care. The Greek journalists unions decided a 48 hours strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. Four women have been on hunger strike for more than ten days.

Greek journalists hunger strike Greek journalists on hunger strike

By Vasso E. Morali, Athens

Dear Colleagues at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom ECPMF,

Greek Journalists’ struggle to save their self-managed Health Care and Social Security Organisation (EDOEAP) reaches its peak from today [Tuesday and Wednesday, 24th and 25th of October] on with a 48 hours strike in all Greek media, and two out of four colleagues of ours continuing their two weeks hunger strike, in the centre of Athens. (The third and fourth hunger striker had to quit following the severe deterioration of their health after 12 days of hunger).

It’s been more than four months now that the Greek journalists are in a turmoil, following the illegal, unreasonable and immoral stance of the Greek state and mass media owners who have critically undermined EDOEAP in a point to collapse. With tragic consequences for the working force of the Greek Media, the retired journalists and their families (a total of approximately 18,000 members).

Since September 2016, the Greek state abolished a law – valid since 1968 - by which the Greek Journalists’ Healthcare and Social Security Organisation was funded based on the working and retired journalists' and other Media employees’ own monthly contributions, plus through a stamp duty called “aggeliosimo” (a type of a special surcharge on advertisements, published in the Greek media: newspapers, magazines, Radio, TV). That special surcharge was applied on purpose in order to cover/replace the employers’ and the state’s duty for monthly contributions to our organisation. Approximately 14 percent of the total cost of each advertisement had to be directed to EDOEAP for 49 years, in order to fund its services for Healthcare and Social Security (pensions and superannuation) of the Greek journalists and other media employees.

In Greece, every employer has the obligation to contribute at least 12 percent of the gross salary for each employee’s Social Security and Healthcare Organisation/Fund. In addition, the state has the parallel obligation to subsidise the third of the total monthly Social Security and Healthcare contributions for each employee. Therefore the Greek state and the Greek media owners in fact have never paid any insurance contributions to the Greek Journalists Health Care and Social Security Organisation (EDOEAP) - a paradox compared to any other employer in Greece. On the contrary, the Greek state illegally confiscated nearly 90 million euros from EDOEAP’s bank deposits back in 2012, through the infamous PSI (“haircut”), using the “Greek economic crisis” as an excuse.

That “robbery” left EDOEAP with just 10 percent of its total capital and (if that wasn’t enough!)  since September 2016 the Greek government decided to abolish – without an alternative funding - the special surcharge (“aggeliosimo”), letting Greek media owners escape without paying any contribution at all for their employees’ healthcare and social security, as well as starving EDOEAP of its most valuable resource of funds at the same time. Despite the strong objections by EDOEAP and the Greek Journalists’ and Media employees’ Unions, regardless a number of three parties (state, media owners and media Unions) fruitless meetings over a period of a year, the Greek government and the media owners avoid scandalously to fulfil their obligations and agree for a reasonable contribution to EDOEAP.

Humiliating and unfair

Therefore EDOEAP has collapsed now, paying no pensions to its pensioners and forcing its members and their families to pay from their own pocket any costs in hospitals and for medical examinations or medication. Given the incredibly low salaries and pensions in Greece during the recent years, given that unemployment in Greek media exceeds 45 percent nowadays, it’s more than obvious that thousands of EDOEAP members (media employees or retired journalists), who paid their own contributions for decades, can now hardly survive or pay for their personal and family healthcare from their own pocket.

This is humiliating and unfair for hard working people, it’s against any human right and European principles for equal access to healthcare and social benefits.

And not only this: the state and Greek media owners (especially the big ones) have forced a general “silence” in their media (newspapers, radio, tv channels) in regards to this major issue for the Greek Journalists. Not a word is typed or broadcast in their media on EDOEAP’s collapse and its tragic consequences for 18,000 European citizens!

Even when five pensioners (journalists) of EDOEAP started, one after the other, a hunger strike next to the Athens Journalists Union’s headquarters – in the centre of Athens - since early October, not a word was allowed for their desperate movement either in the public or in the private Greek media (with very few exceptions in minor media only)! It’s only through social media we can inform our colleagues and other people in Greece and abroad of what the Greek Journalists are dealing with right now! The older Greek Journalists can recall a similar situation by reflecting to the Greek Junta’s era only, back in the 60s!

So we face a violation of free speech and press freedom in a state - member of the European Union- in the 21st century!

That’s why the Greek journalists and media employees are angry, upset and determind to fight for their rights for free speech, healthcare and social security!

That’s why we appeal to our European and other colleagues all over the world for solidarity and support of our struggle. Please inform your audiences of what’s happening in Greece against the media people. Spread the word why we are fighting – even through hunger strikes - for our rights! Please help us to stop the Greek state’s and the Greek media owners’ unlawful behaviour! It is a matter of culture and social justice, after all! It is a matter of social solidarity in a united European community. According to its basic constitutional principles, E.U. is obliged to defend the human right to equal access to healthcare and social benefits for all.


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