The surprise closure of the public broadcaster ERT provokes anger and a general strike as thousands are fired.
The Greek government has ordered the immediate shutdown of the public broadcasting company(ERT). The surprise move was announced on Tuesday and took effect hours later as TV screens went blank. Thousands of people instantly lost their jobs and the decision is being condemned and challenged by the workers of ERT and other trade unions.
The first effect of the closure is the sacking of 2600 workers. Such sackings were a condition of Greece's last bailout deal imposed by the Troika with more expected later in the year. New Democracy(ND), the coalition government leader, acted alone when issuing the closure order with its junior partners refusing to back the move. This has angered the other coalition members and could threaten the stability of the government.
ERT workers are doing their best to keep broadcasting over various satellite and internet streams. Many workers have kept a physical presence in the ERT buildings and have vowed to stay. On Wednesday evening thousands gathered in solidarity in Athens. Despite this there is the possibility that riot police could be sent into to secure ERT buildings at any time.
Criticism of the switch off has come from across the political spectrum as well as from international bodies. Inside Greece trade unions have reacted to the jobs losses by calling strike actions over the next days. Unions representing journalists and the media called for strikes on Thursday. In addition Greece's two largest unions have also declared a 24 hour general strike on Thursday 13th in solidarity.
ERTs significance is as Greece's only non-commercial TV and radio broadcaster with all other stations being privately owned. Whist the network has been criticised for staying close to the government line during the crisis the loss of public broadcasting is being labelled a blow to democracy. Greece is falling down the rankings for press freedom as governments have arrested or replaced critical journalists, closed independent media and now switched off the only non-private station.
The manner of the shutdown has angered many as such a major decision was taken without going through the standard democratic procedures. Since its election one year ago the ND government has tolerated no opposition. The attempted closure of Athens Indymedia earlier in the year, the forced ending of strikes and attacks against squats all point to a government determined to push through austerity measures against popular resistance.