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Alternative intervention by Athens lawyers: The state ban on press coverage of court proceedings should be lifted immediately – The Press Project

Alternative intervention by Athens lawyers: The state ban on press coverage of court proceedings should be lifted immediately – The Press Project

In a strong statement, the Athens Lawyers’ Union group Alternative Intervention is calling for the immediate repeal of the government’s recent amendment to the law banning journalistic reporting and observation of court proceedings. It argues that this amendment is a direct attack on the constitutionally enshrined principle of publicity of court proceedings.

The Justice Ministry recently introduced a provision banning “full or partial broadcasts in any form, particularly via television, radio or the Internet.” The lawyers’ group says this could lead to journalists being barred from courtrooms even if they simply use transcription programs without recording or filming. The statement urges judges and prosecutors to interpret the new provision strictly in line with Article 93(2) of the Constitution, which requires public court sessions unless privacy or moral concerns dictate otherwise.

The announcement of the alternative intervention of the Athens lawyers

The recent amendment to the law banning journalistic coverage of court proceedings is considered a violation of the principles of transparency and public scrutiny in the judicial process. According to the Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers, this broad and vague provision could be misunderstood as banning the presence of journalists and observers in courtrooms altogether.

The new provision, enshrined in Law 5119/2024, states: “The total or partial transmission by any means, in particular by television, radio, Internet and, in general, by any technical means, as well as filming, video recording, sound recording and transcription by special software that converts oral statements into written form, is prohibited before criminal, civil and administrative courts.” Exceptions are only permitted if the prosecutor, the parties involved and the court agree on the essential public interest.

Previously, the law was more precise and allowed the court to authorize the transfer if all parties agreed and there was a significant public interest. However, the new law provides for a prison sentence of up to three years and fines of between 20,000 and 200,000 euros for violations.

Concerns about the impact on public court proceedings

The alternative intervention by the Athens lawyers pointed to a recent case in which the three-judge Criminal Court of Mytilene used this provision to prohibit the presence of trial observers during the racist pogrom against refugees in Sapphos Square. Observers traditionally provide real-time updates from the courtroom, ensuring transparency and public awareness, without using audio or video recording devices.

In the past, observatories such as Golden Dawn Watch and ZackieOh Justice Watch have played a crucial role in high-profile cases by providing the public with access to court proceedings through written reports. However, the government’s new regulation aims to limit this transparency, thereby undermining the fundamental principle of public trials.

Demand for annulment and judicial restraint

The Athens Lawyers’ Alternative Intervention calls on the government to immediately repeal this restrictive provision. It also calls on bar associations and journalists’ organizations to condemn the amendment and demand its repeal. In the meantime, they call on judges and prosecutors to apply the provision strictly, in accordance with constitutional guarantees, and to oppose efforts to limit press freedom and public control.

In their statement, they stress that written journalistic reporting and observation of the courtroom do not constitute audio or video transmission and should not be restricted. The presence of journalists and the public’s right to information are essential components of a fair and transparent judicial process, which is protected by both the Greek Constitution and international human rights standards.

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