Journalist cut off mid-broadcast as five-month protest is evicted
Workers and supporters react after police fired tear gas near ERT’s headquarters. (Photo: AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)Greek riot police raided the country’s shuttered ERT public broadcasting station headquarters on Thursday, cutting off journalist Nikos Tsimbidas mid-broadcast as he reported from the scene of a five-month-long occupation led by former workers.
“Believe me, it’s a shocking experience to be on the mic with two platoons of riot police surrounding the live broadcasting booth,” he said on air, the Independent reports. “We are being removed, I’ve just been informed that it appears orders have been given for me to stop talking.”
The police violently removed approximately 50 former workers and detained at least four people, according to a police spokesman, with Tsimbidas among them.
Meanwhile, police fired teargas against the reported 300 people who gathered outside of the station chanting in support of those under siege inside.
Journalists have continued to transmit broadcasts over the internet for the five months since their station went dark, but after the raid, the station went silent.
The eviction appears an attempt to snuff out an ongoing demonstration that has become a flashpoint of public opposition to harsh austerity measures driven by the Greek government at the behest of its IMF and EU lenders.
The conservative-led Greek government sparked public outrage in June when it suddenly shuttered the ERT station—the country’s only publicly funded station—and fired its 2,656 workers, as part of its anti-austerity agenda. The closure prompted mass protests including a series of labor strikes backed by Greece’s biggest unions.
The government’s plan to restructure ERT has been denounced as “violent” by the Democratic Left party, which quit the ruling coalition in protest of the closure.
Maria Margaronis, writing for The Nation, says the violent raid of protesting journalists exposes Greece’s slide into authoritarianism as austerity and poverty grip the country. She writes, “The image is the message: platoons of armoured representatives of the state evicting a few dozen journalists and locking the doors with handcuffs.”
Before he was cut off, Tsimbidas called for a “magnificent demonstration, not just for ERT, not for our jobs, but for democracy itself, against…this virulent repression, this rewind through decades, for all the things we should have stood up for but couldn’t…”
Protesters attempt to approach the ERT headquarters November 7 (Photo: Reuters/John Kolesidis)