Is there a country that a warning from the President of the highest court against an organised attempt by mass media to distort the normal function of the judiciary would pass unnoticed? From July 2nd there is at least Greece.
In a communique addressed to judges and all other legal entities of the institution, the President of The Council of State Sotirios A. Rizos mentions openly the existence of a “campaign of publications, TV shows and social media” aiming to curb the moral of the institution. Rizos says “the propaganda is exercised in an organised manner” and could possibly harm the freedom of judgment exercised by the court, thus reducing the willingness of judges to offer legal protection to citizens.
The Council of State operates as the equivalent of a Constitutional or a Supreme court and it is the court that determines legislations’ compatibility with the Greek constitution.
The reason of the campaign according to the highest judge is the consideration as unconstitutional of a series of wage cuts imposed in previous years from Greek governments as part of a front loaded austerity program. The decisions create obligations for retrospective payments of wages and pensions that appear to threaten the fiscal consolidation reforms agreed between the Greek government and the Troika in exchange for bailout money. The representative body of international creditors Troika is co-directed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The threat of destabilisation of austerity reforms due to courts undoing wage cuts has been identified for sometime already and it has been considered as a serious threat to the austerity agenda by government officials as well as pro-austerity interests that dominate the country’s mainstream media.
Beginning of last month Niki Kitsantonis reported for the New York Times in a piece titled “Greece Wars With Courts Over Ways to Slash Budget”
“The mounting pile of judgments has now become a serious obstacle to the austerity drive of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, with the International Monetary Fund warning this week that the “adverse court rulings” threaten to undo the country’s reforms, which its creditors are scheduled to begin reviewing in July”
Till today, July 10th, no big media has paid attention to the judge’s gesture.
See the letter of the President of The Council of State here (in Greek)