Government ends daily news briefings
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ The government on Friday abolished the traditional practice of daily news briefings and said that instead reporters would be given communiques by the Ministry of Press and Information.
The Socialist government’s decision came a day after Costas Laliotis, the official spokesman, quit because of a reported attempt by the minister of labor to control news broadcasts over state-controlled television and radio. Four ranking officials in the government media, including the news director of Hellenic Radio TV 1 and the secretary-general of the Press and Informatitn Ministry, resigned to show their support of Laliotis.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou presided at the Cabinet session that approved the action. The communique said journalists would be advised through press statements issued daily by the Ministry of Press and Information or by other ministries.
There was an immediate and critical reaction by the Greek news media, and within hours the government issued another statement saying the action did not ban ″regular contacts″ with the official spokesman.
″Its bad. We’ll be in the dark. Where do we start and where do we finish,″ Angelos Stangos of the pro-government newspaper Ta Nea said.
Nikos Simos, a political writer for the opposition newspaper Kathimerini, said the Cabinet’s decision ″cuts off our dialogue with the government. Through the dialogue we were able to find the truth despite official denials.″
The foreign press which met twice a week with the official spokesman, is also affected by the decision.
John Rigos, president of the Foreign Press Association, said, ″We will seek direct access to the premier. The foreign press cannot function without a government spokesman or direct contact with ministers.″
Pavlos Dimas of the Communist Party daily Rizospastis said the decision was ″unacepptable and an un-democratic step which weakens the press.″
Fear was expressed by some journalists that the government would pass on information only to the pro-govermment media.
Meanwhile, the government was seeking a replacement for Laliotis, and political sources said several candidates had rejected the offer because the job ″is too hot to handle.″