A loud SLAPP for Greek journalists

Eleni Stamatoukou




Greek media and journalists revealing the wiretapping scandal testified in a court hearing on January 25, on a SLAPP lawsuit issued by the Greek PM's nephew and former secretary.

Greek journalists and media reporting on the wiretapping scandal testified in a court hearing on January 25, in Athens Greece, on a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, SLAPP filed by Grigoris Dimitriadis, former secretary, and nephew of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Dimitriadis has so far filed two SLAPP lawsuits against the Greek newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton, EFSYN, and the investigative media outlet Reporters United and its journalists Nikolas Leontopoulos and Thodoris Chondrogiannos, but also against the journalist Thanasis Koukakis, who is the first confirmed victim of the illegal Predator spyware.

On the first lawsuit sentenced on January 25, Dimitriadis accuses the media and the journalists of moral damage as their reports in August 2022 revealed his alleged involvement with Intellexa, an Israeli company that sells Predator in Greece. He demanded compensation of 250,000 euros from EFSYN, €150,000 from Reporters United and its journalists, and 150,000 euros from Koukakis. The total amount claimed is 550,000 euros.

The wiretapping scandal known as Predator Gate has occupied Greece since 2022 and concerns the use of the illegal software Predator by the Greek secret services, EYP, at the expense of journalists, politicians, business people, and other individuals.

The first trial concerning the wiretapping scandal

Balkan Insight reported that many people, among them MPs from the opposition parties of SYRIZA, PASOK, New Left and the Greek Communist Party, KKE, journalists, members of the civil society and readers came to court on January 25 to support the media and journalists.

It’s notable to add that Dimitriadis was not present,

Greek media’s witnesses the Greek jurist and academic Nikos Alevizatos and the investigative journalist Tasos Telloglou documented that the publications not only were not defamatory but on the contrary were serving the public interest.

It was the first time that the wiretapping scandal was analyzed in a courtroom.

“For the first time, people from the legal world and the journalists who have investigated the scandal were able to present before a court what exactly happened with Predator, and this will be recorded in the minutes of the trial,” Koukakis told to Balkan Insight.

Court’s decision expected to be announced in the coming months or in four years, depending on the slow pace of Greek justice system.

SLAPPs: an attempt to intimidate and silence journalists

Following the journalistic revelations in August 2022 Dimitriadis resigned and sent his first lawsuit against the media and the journalists. At the end of November 2023, he sent a new series of lawsuits against them requesting a total of 3.3 million euros, accusing them of moral damage because of a new investigation connecting him with the wiretapping scandal.

Source: pixabay.com

In an official announcement in December, the Journalists’ Union of Athens daily newspapers, ESIEA said that Dimitriadis's lawsuits aim to intimidate journalists and limit access to information.

SLAPPs, aka Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, are legal actions used mostly by big corporations or powerful individuals to harass, intimidate, and financially or psychologically exhaust journalists, activists, academics, and human rights defenders.

International media organizations such as the International Press Institute (IPI), ARTICLE 19 Europe (A19), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), OBC Transeuropa (OBCT), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned Dimitriadis’s lawsuit characterizing it SLAPP and “a vexatious effort to muzzle investigative reporting on Dimitriadis’ links to the Greek spyware scandal.”

In a press release issued January 18, 2024, renewed their “condemnation of a groundless defamation lawsuit filed against Greek journalists and media by Grigoris Dimitriadis, the nephew of the Prime Minister, and urge the plaintiff to urgently withdraw the lawsuit ahead of an upcoming hearing.”

EU regulation on SLAPPs and its problematic implementation

The EU Council and the EU Parliament in November reached a political deal on a directive that would protect journalists and human rights defenders from SLAPPs.

Member states’ representatives within the Council (Coreper) must endorse the new directive. If approved, the text must be formally adopted by both the Council and the European Parliament.

Greek journalists fear that the phenomenon of SLAPPs will escalate in 2024. Greek media and journalists spoke to Balkan Insight, saying it is unclear how the new law will be applied in Greece, where government officials and big companies frequently use SLAPPs to intimidate and silence journalists.

“Unfortunately, the way in which the provisions of the directive are worded leaves the discretion to member states how they will legislate,” said to Balkan Insight Giannis Kimpouropoulos, editorial director of the Greek media outlet Efimerida ton Syntakton, EFSYN.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Malta, created after the murder of the same-name Maltese investigative journalist stated that the proposed antiSLAPP directive should ensure the text includes an effective early dismissal mechanism and a broadly inclusive definition of cross-border cases, and sets the standard for compensation for SLAPP targets.

Besides that, the foundation stressed that “90% of identified #SLAPP cases would not be covered by the Council's general approach proposal. That statistic can and should be reversed. Ending SLAPPs is a public interest matter. When the law is abused, crucial information is covered up, violating everyone's right to know.”


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Eleni Stamatoukou

Eleni Stamatoukou is a journalist known for her work on various topics, including migration, border control policies, and current events. She has contributed to publications such as Balkan Insight and Solomon. Her articles cover a wide range of subjects, including issues related to security, surveillance, cyber security, and international relations.