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It's getting worse: Mitsotakis regime targets top investigative journalists in Greece

In November of the previous year we watched Mitsotakis regime in Greece taking steps to suppress further press freedom in the country, through some proposed amendments to Article 191 of the Criminal Code.

The International Press Institute then concluded that "Rather than improving the existing Article 191 of the Criminal Code, which is already problematic, the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would take a major step backwards if this law were eventually passed and send a worrying signal about the administration’s commitment to media freedom."

It seems that the regime is using now these changes (introduced on the pretext of "dangerous" misinformation related to COVID-19 pandemic and other issues) to go after top investigative journalists, who, were investigating big corruption scandals.

Recently, investigative journalist Gianna Papadakou, was targeted for exposing officials believed to have received bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and, for writing about wealthy people suspected of evading taxes.

The Journalist Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) stated that “ESIEA expresses its support for Gianna Papadakou and stresses that reporting and investigative journalism, which are ingredients of free press protected by the Constitution, cannot be prosecuted,
As the OCCRP also reported:
While Novartis agreed in 2020 to pay US$347 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commision over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in which it acknowledged making illegal payments to Greek healthcare providers and officials, Greece itself did little to hold the Swiss pharmaceutical company and the recipients of the bribes to account.

Instead, prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki who was investigating Novartis and Greek top politicians, including two former prime ministers, had the case removed from her.

To add insult to injury, Touloupaki was accused of abuse of power in another case and had a criminal case opened against her. The same Greek-Israeli businessman that accused Papadakou, accused her for extortion as well.

Touloupaki told OCCRP at the time that ever since she started probing the Novartis bribery case, she has been politically persecuted as a result. “They managed to turn the auditors into defendants in order to stop any judicial investigation,” she told OCCRP in 2020.

Papadakou said the real reason for the accusations against her is her reporting about people suspected of hiding their wealth from tax authorities.

“They are targeting me because I was reporting about people on the Lagarde-List and because I was a witness in the parliamentary inquiry,” she said, referring to a list of thousands of people, including about 2,000 wealthy Greeks, who had secret bank accounts in the Geneva branch of HSBC. 
The list with the Greek depositors, containing many members of the country’s elite, was handed by then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to her Greek counterpart in 2010, when his government imposed unprecedented austerity measures as part of a mammoth international bailout agreement. But he took no action and was later accused of having removed the names of his relatives from it. 


The case against Papadakou might be an example of why the European Commission is keeping a close eye on press freedom in Greece.

"The 2021 Report of the Committee on the Rule of Law pointed out the ongoing attacks and threats against the physical safety of journalists in Greece,” Vera Jourova, the Vice-President of the European Commission, said last month, according to a statement by the Greek opposition party, Syriza.

“The Commission's 2022 report on the rule of law will continue to pay particular attention to developments concerning freedom of the press and the safety of journalists," she was quoted as saying.

According to Reporters without Borders Greece dropped five points in its press freedom ratings in 2020 alone.
Γιάννα Παπαδάκου: Μου στερούν τον φυσικό δικαστή - Οι ειδήσεις... της  επόμενης ημέρας

Shortly after the targeting of Papadakou, the regime went after another top investigative journalist, Kostas Vaxevanis. Vaxevanis has been for many years the main target of the old corrupted political establishment (part of which is the current Mitsotakis regime), for investigating and exposing its biggest corruption scandals.
Kostas.Vaxevanis (@KostasVaxevanis) / Twitter
In an unprecedented action, Vaxevanis has been accused of involvement in the Novartis case and summoned to appear before a Supreme Court special court investigator. Vaxevanis is facing charges that include participation in a criminal organization, breach of duty and two counts of conspiracy to abuse power!

Although Vaxevanis requested to testify to the parliamentary committee (which is controlled by the Mitsotakis regime as it has the majority of the MPs) which examined the Novartis case, his request has been denied.
It is worth to note that Vaxevanis had announced in April 2021 that he had received information about a murder contract set against him. 
Twitter users in Greece expressed their support for Vaxevanis, but also for the freedom of the press, regarding his summons by the areopagite investigator Konstantina Alevizopoulou in order to testify as a defendant in the Novartis scandal.  «The Novartis scandal has been filed. The Mitsotakis government seems to want to punish, persecute and intimidate journalists who investigate, control the government, reveal scandals. We do not tolerate regimes. We are with_Vaxevanis“ they mention, among other things, in their posts.

The previous Syriza administration made some attempts to clean the accumulated dirt in the Greek political scene, by opening the case of the Novartis scandal. Yet, it appears that the old corrupted political establishment penetrated in all levels of the Greek judicial system by putting its own people for decades. This made it almost impossible for the Leftist government to complete the mission. And when the corrupted establishment took back the power through Mitsotakis regime, it managed to reverse the scandal. Therefore, a big corruption scandal was transformed into an alleged conspiracy that was supposedly set up against some Greek top politicians and MPs of the regime.

Now that the regime sees its popularity falling rapidly (as it shows its real face through a new round of corruption and inability to deal with big problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the big rise of the prices in basic goods, etc.), it becomes even more authoritarian. The regime controls all the information of the mainstream media and press and seeks to suppress social media and independent voices (including investigative journalists) who expose its corruption.


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