WATCHDOG JOURNALISM, GREECE, “FAKELAKI”, AND THE WORLD BANK

Files under General | Feb 25th

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“Fakelaki” means in Greek “small envelope.”

Unfortunately, giving envelopes with money when making requests is a set custom in Greece.

Envelopes to secure authorizations, permissions, certifications or construction approvals can contain up to thousands and tens of thousands of euros.

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index on 180 countries made by Transparency International in 2009, Greece ranked 71st overall and had the worst corruption among EU nations.

So, what real newspapers did in Greece?

Well, getting “felakai”.

Looking away.

Not doing watchdog journalism but enjoying close and profitable relations with politicians, builders, bankers and other Big Business.

A few year ago, INNOVATION relaunched ET, a newspaper that had the opportunity to become THE first real newspaper of the country.

Theodoros Aggelopoulos and Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki had a dream, and we too.

Some brave ET editors and journalists did their best… but it didn’t work because the publishers surrendered to political advisers that wanted “more of the same” under a new format and a fantastic design.

Reading today this story I felt very sad because a real free press (this was the name of our paper, Eleftheros Typos, Free Press), could have made the difference in this country.

So, instead, they have now the lowest newspaper circulation rates of Europe.

Why?

Because readers and advertisers know better.

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I remember that many years ago the CEO of the World Association of Newspaper (WAN), Timothy Balding, wanted to convince the World Bank that the best and cheapest way to solve many international financial crisis was just to support, fund and help entrepreneurs willing to start real newspapers in these countries.

He was right.

Perhaps Greece needs today more “real newspapers” than money from Germany, France or the EU.

Yes, the last Greek governments, PASOK or New Democracy, share the main responsibility of this mess.

But many newspaper publishers, editors, and reporters must accept that their own inaction and complicity with the system has made the corruption an acceptable “way of life”.

A Greek friend of mine that I respect a lot told me:

“Publishers and journalists are quite responsible for this situation as  the politicians.Last years, newspapers gained subsidies from the government as state-advertisement. Ministers, governors of public sectors organisations spent millions to finance newspapers without circulation.”

The result?

No credibility.

No journalism.

Just propaganda.

No readers.

No advertisers.

No free press.

And now the country is “shooting itself in the foot”.

What a dramatic lesson!

But I am sure than soon or later, real journalism will be alive and prosper in such great country.

Let’s hope.

(Pictures by AP/Bela Szandelszky and Petros Karadjias)



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