Mass protests hit Greece over TV closure

Mass protests hit Greece over TV closure
Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:23:54

Public services ground to a halt in Greece on Thursday as unions launched a 24-hour general strike in protest over the government's decision to shut down public broadcaster ERT as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.

Trains and ferries stood still, hospitals were operating on emergency footing and government offices were shut across the country as part of the action.

Air traffic controllers were due to participate in a two-hour work stoppage starting from 1200 GMT and no newspapers were published, with journalists on an indefinite strike because of the government's shock move.

The socialist and moderate leftist parties supporting the coalition government had called the decision on ERT "unacceptable" and a government source said late Wednesday that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would confer over the issue with his coalition partners.

"The prime minister, who always seeks dialogue, will telephone the political leaders for a meeting in the coming days," the government source said.

Samaras had defended the closure, saying earlier on Wednesday: "We are eliminating a hotbed of opacity and waste... We are protecting the public interest."

The broadcaster's television and radio stations were abruptly pulled off air late Tuesday and its nearly 2,700 staff suspended as part of the conservative-led coalition government's deeply unpopular austerity drive.

There was also a protest by journalists in neighboring Cyprus, where there are fears that the public broadcaster there could go the same way as the government looks to slash spending in the island's own austerity drive.

The Samaras administration quickly presented legislation creating a new broadcaster called New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT) to replace the 60-year-old ERT.

But coalition partners insisted that even though the government must fight the crisis, this could only be done in "good faith" and through consensus.