Editors Jailed For Publishing Statements From Terrorists
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Seven newspaper editors were convicted today and sentenced to serve up to 10 months in jail for publishing statements from terrorists in order to challenge a law they say imposes censorship.
It was the first time in modern Greek history that so many editors have been convicted and sentenced for breaking a press law.
The editors, whose newspapers represent half the country’s readership, refused to appeal the sentences and chose to be jailed. They also refused to pay fines rather than serve time.
Hundreds of people, including journalists, applauded and cheered as six of the editors were driven away from the court in police wagons.
The seventh man convicted - Seraphim Fyntanides, the managing editor of the respected liberal daily Eleftherotypia - is abroad. He plans to join the other editors in jail when he returns.
″This law threatens not just a few journalists, but the freedom of the press and people’s civil right to free speech,″ said Makis Yabazolias, an assistant editor-in-chief of Eleftherotypia.
The paper began what turned into a showdown with the conservative New Democracy government when it published a statement by the November 17 terrorist group June 6. The other newspapers published the same statement the following day in a show of support.
The editors of Eleftherotypia and the dailies Ethnos, Niki, and Avriani were sentenced to 10 months each because they twice published statements. They are Seraphim Fyntanides, Christos Theoharatos, Dimitris Maroudas and Kostas Geronikolos.
The editors of Dimokratikos Logos, 48 Hours and the weekly Pontiki - Kostas Kontopanos, Spyros Karatzaferis and Kostas Papaioannou - got five months for each publishing one statement.
The editors of two other newspapers which also published statements are to be tried later.
During the weeklong trial before a three-judge misdemeanor court, judicial and constitutional experts argued the anti-terrorist law was a form of censorship and prior restraint.
The law, which has been in effect since December, was sponsored by New Democracy. The law allows a Supreme Court prosecutor to issue a restraining order barring newspapers and broadcast media from publicizing statements by terrorist groups. It does not bar reports about terrorist attacks.
A prosecutor issued a restraining order in June after November 17 claimed responsibility for a series of bombings.
Greek terrorist groups generally send long statements to newspapers after they carry out attacks, and the government has argued the law will mean less publicity for terrorists.
Greece has been battling domestic terrorism since the mid-1970s. November 17, the deadliest and most prominent of the groups, has killed 15 people - including four Americans - since 1975.
November 17 is named after the day in 1973 that the military junta then ruling Greece used tanks to crush a student revolt.