On August 12, 2021, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis talks with journalists during a news conference to discuss government response to fires raging across Greece. Four Greek investigative journalists say intelligence authorities followed them and tracked their phones in 2022. (Reuters/Louiza Vradi)

Four Greek investigative journalists say intelligence authorities followed them, tracked their phones

Berlin, November 4, 2022—Greek authorities must conduct a quick, transparent, and independent investigation into claims that investigative journalist Tasos Telloglou was stalked and that intelligence officials used cell phone data to surveil him and reporters Thodoris Chondrogiannos, Thanasis Koukakis, and Eliza Triantafillou, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

In an October 24 article and interviews, Telloglou, a reporter for Greek privately owned online investigative outlet Inside Story, said that unknown individuals stalked him between May and August 2022, and used cell phone data to monitor him as well as Chondrogiannos, an investigative reporter at privately owned online investigative outlet Reporters United, Koukakis, a financial reporter who works for various local and international outlets, and Triantafillou, an investigative reporter at Inside Story. Telloglou’s report was published on the website of the Greek office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, an independent organization affiliated with Germany’s Green Party.

The four reporters told CPJ by email and phone that they suspect Greek authorities are behind their surveillance, which they believe is linked to their reporting and investigations into a recent wiretapping and spyware scandal in which intelligence officials wiretapped Koukakis’ and another journalist’s cell phone and Koukakis’ phone was infected with Predator spyware, which the government denied procuring.

Their allegations come against a backdrop of a deteriorating climate for press freedom in Greece.

“Greek authorities must conduct a quick, transparent and independent investigation into the stalking and surveillance allegations by Tasos Telloglou and put an immediate stop to any use of cell phone data to track him and fellow investigative reporters Thodoris Chondrogiannos, Thanasis Koukakis, and Eliza Triantafillou,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “It is totally unacceptable to follow journalists or use cell phone data to track their and their sources’ movements. Greek authorities must protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources rather than compromise it.”

In his article, Telloglou said that on May 27, he noticed that a man followed him in Athens as he walked to meet a source. Telloglou confronted the man, who ran away. Telloglou later contacted intelligence officials who denied following him. A few days later, a retired police officer warned him about the parking lot he used. A parking attendant told Telloglou that a policeman had wanted access to his car, but the attendant did not allow it.

Telloglou claimed that in June, a source gave him a photograph taken of him in an Athens café following his meeting with Koukakis on May 2. Telloglou did not publish the photo to protect his source. Also in June, an intelligence source told him that authorities were using cell phone signals to track his movements, those of the other three journalists, and potential sources to determine whether they had met, Telloglou wrote. 

Koukakis said Telloglou’s article “confirms that even after the scandal of surveillances was made public, the Greek government continued to monitor journalists working on this issue.”   

Chondrogiannos said the article confirms credible sources’ warnings that they and whistleblowers “have been targeted with geolocation surveillance for our investigation” on the scandal and that authorities wanted to identify their sources. The article exposes “the systematic surveillance of journalists” by intelligence officials in Greece, Chondrogiannos said. 

Triantafillou said that around May, she also noticed suspicious movements of unknown people outside her home, and believes that she was tailed as she walked to meetings with sources.

The reporters said they have not filed a police report on the incidents. Telloglou told CPJ that he does not think Greek authorities can offer protection from threats coming from the state. Chondrogiannos said that his outlet, Reporters United, will submit an official request to the Greek independent authority responsible for the protection of privacy (ADAE), to determine whether he had been under surveillance by intelligence officials.

Telloglou told CPJ that Greek authorities did not respond to his article.

CPJ emailed questions to the press department of Greece’s National Intelligence Service but received no reply.