European Federation of Journalists

Greece: SLAPP award winner Grigoris Dimitriadis urged to drop defamation lawsuit

Credits: BRYAN R. SMITH AFP

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined partner media freedom and journalist organisations in writing to Grigoris Dimitriadis, the former general secretary of the office of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, about SLAPP lawsuits he filed against investigative media and journalists.

 

RE: Letter from international press freedom organisations

21 October 2022

Dear Grigoris Dimitriadis,

 

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists organisations are writing to you to express our shared concern about defamation claims filed against investigative journalists and media outlets following your resignation from the role of general secretary in the office of the Greek Prime Minister in August 2022.

Our organisations have closely assessed these five legal claims and believe they classify as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs): abusive litigation filed by powerful individuals aimed at silencing and intimidating legitimate watchdog journalism.

The defamation lawsuit you filed against newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton (EFSYN), investigative online portal Reporters United and their reporters Nikola Leontopoulos and Thodoris Chondrogiannos, and freelance journalist Thanasis Koukakis, is both retaliatory in nature and unfounded in merit.

Rather than a good faith effort to seek appropriate legal redress, we are concerned these lawsuits – ranging from between €150,000 and €250,000 – appear to be more an effort to punish the media whose investigations into your links with a company caught in the middle of a spyware scandal appear to have led to your resignation.

Demands for the articles of both independent media which published on August 4, 2022 to be removed from their respective websites are a clear attempt to muzzle professional investigative reporting on a matter of significant public interest and erase their revelations.

The legal action taken against Thanasis Koukakis, a journalist who was previously targeted with the Predator spyware marketed by the very firm you were established to have connections with, over his simple retweet of an investigative report, is a startling example of vexatious litigation.

We note that on 20 October you were awarded the ‘SLAPP Politician of the Year Award’ 2022 by the CASE Coalition at its European Anti-SLAPP contest 2022.

Upon your receival of this SLAPP award, we now take the opportunity to write to you directly to urge you to withdraw the legal complaints against all three journalists and both media outlets and to refrain from weaponizing the law to target public interest journalism in the future.

The case is a matter of serious concern amongst international journalists’ and media freedom organisations, European NGOs working on SLAPPs, and MEPs at the European Parliament and serves only to further erode media freedom in Greece at a troubling time.

Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation closely and push for full accountability for the recent abuses of spyware in Greece, as well as the development and implementation of effective anti-SLAPP legislation at the EU, Council of Europe and national levels. We hope to see your response soon.

 

Signed:

  • ARTICLE 19 – Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement has been coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission. www.mfrr.eu