Berlin, December 8, 2021 — Greek lawmakers should revoke an amendment to the country’s criminal code that threatens journalists with prison sentences for spreading what the prosecution deems “false” information, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 11, 2021, Greek lawmakers approved an amendment to Article 191 of the country´s criminal code that imposes a prison sentence of up to three months for anyone deemed to be spreading “false news” considered likely to “worry or frighten citizens or to undermine public confidence” in the country’s economy, defense capabilities, or public health, according to a EuroNews report and CPJ’s review of the amendment. If the offense is committed repeatedly through the press or the internet, the prison sentence increases to six months, and the publisher or owner of a media outlet responsible could face up to five years in prison, according to CPJ’s review.
“Greek lawmakers should immediately revoke the amendment to Article 191 of the criminal code that risks imprisoning journalists for spreading ‘false news.’ Greece should only use the civil code for such issues,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Independent reporting should be encouraged. Threatening journalists with prison sentences for doing their job has no place on the books of an EU member state and will have a chilling effect on journalism.”
According to a statement by the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA), an independent trade group, the amendment’s definition is too vague, since “it does not specify what constitutes news capable of causing concern or fear to citizens.” Therefore, it runs the risk of finding journalists criminally liable when they express their opinion, if the prosecution, at its own discretion, determines it might cause concern or fear among the citizens, the statement said.
CPJ emailed the press office of the Greek Ministry of Justice for comment but received no immediate reply.