Athanasios Papandropoulos

The freedom of the press and the Athens Review of Books case

Flickr/Papamichalopoulos Konstantinos/CC BY-NC 2.0
An issue of the Athens Review of Books dedicated to Kazuo Ishiguro.

As columnist, I represent the Athens Review of Books, a journal of literary, cultural and historical content published monthly in Greek language, by Maria and Manolis Vasilakis.

The Athens Review of Books is at risk of closing down in an unlawful manner that Viktor Orban and Donald Trump would envy. Since July 2017, at the request of the former Greek Foreign Minister the bank accounts of the publisher and of the chief editor of the Athens Review as well as the journal’s revenues from the press distribution agency have been frozen – outrageous as it may sound it is happening now in Europe.

The campaign waged against the Athens Review in collaboration with accomplices from the judiciary at the highest level has no parallel in paranoia and duration in recent years.

Recently, Maria Vasilakis, sent a letter to the Presidents of the European Council Donald Tusk and of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker that describes the case in full. The letter is signed by several eminent academics and writers such as, among others, Anthony Kwame Appiah, Simon Blackburn, Harold Bloom, J.M. Coetzee, Daniel Dennett, Freeman Dyson, Jochen Frowein, Brian Leiter, Mark Lilla, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mark Mazower, Daniel Mendelsohn, Ian McEwan, Philip Pettit, Steven Pinker, Dani Rodrik, Keith Thomas, Michael Walzer etc. The ARB case, is supported by the American Political Science Association as well.

The handling of our case has been sharply criticised by renowned professors and distinguished legal scholars. It is referenced in the Reporters without Borders’ 2017 annual report for Greece as well as in statements by the Association of European Journalists.

The Athens Review of Books is at risk of closing down in an unlawful manner that Viktor Orban and Donald Trump would envy

In addition, four different MEPs from different political parties have submitted questions to the European Parliament.

We also lodged an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (which incidentally has on two prior occasions condemned Greece in similar cases involving violation of freedom of speech following appeals by its editor-in-chief). However, the case will be heard in 2020 and so the journal will be shut down before the hearing and that is why we are trying to make our case known and bring it before the European Parliament for discussion.

Freedom of the press and democracy in Greece are in jeopardy, in fact, Greece tops the list of European countries found guilty by the ECHR in cases concerning freedom of speech and violation of Article 10 of the Treaty of Rome.

We don’t just want to save our journal, we want Greece to finally respect the rule of law and EU Human Rights law. So, in effect this is not a struggle to merely defend ourselves; it is about defending principles and freedoms which we strongly believe are precious to all.

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