On April 9, 2021, two unidentified men on a motorcycle approached Giorgos Karaivaz while he was returning to his home in the Athens suburb of Alimos, and the motorcycle’s passenger shot him several times, killing him at the scene, according to news reports.
Police found 13 shell casings and said that 10 bullets hit the reporter, one in the left palm, one in the neck, two in the head, and six in the chest, those reports said. In CCTV footage released in the days after the killing, the attackers can be seen waiting for Karaivaz, shooting him, and fleeing the scene, according to news reports.
Reuters quoted a police official saying that the killing appeared to be a “professional hit” and that the motive was not immediately known.
Karaivaz covered crime and police issues for the privately owned broadcaster Star TV, previously contributed reporting on those topics to other Greek outlets and broadcasters, founded Bloko, a news website covering law enforcement, according to those reports.
In the weeks before he was killed, Karaivaz published articles on Bloko on topics including police procurement policies, how a criminal suspect allegedly blackmailed police officers into granting free services, police policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a commentary article calling on police to tell the “whole truth” about a recent traffic accident near the parliament building.
Lefteris Economou, the deputy minister for citizens’ protection, told Greek public broadcaster ERT on April 10 that the killing may have been related to feuds within organized crime groups, saying that gangs had been in “open war” for the last several years, and were suspected of commissioning contract killings.
On April 28, a law enforcement source told the Greek daily Kathimerini that police were investigating whether the killing was linked to Karaivaz’s reporting on alleged ties between the Hellenic Police and organized crime, and his coverage of the 2018 killing of a former police officer under investigation for such ties.
In June 2020, Karaivaz published an open letter on Bloko criticizing the slow progress of that investigation.
Karaivaz’s colleagues at Star TV told Deutsche Welle that the journalist had not mentioned receiving any threats before the attack, and authorities said that he had not requested police protection or a gun license for self-defense.
In a statement sent to CPJ via messaging app, Manolis Asariotis, a friend and colleague of Karaivaz at Bloko said that the journalist had written “dozens of stories trying to reveal the way organized crime is connected with corrupted policemen and politicians” said he suspected that the killing was a hit by an organized crime group.
In emailed statement to CPJ, Hellenic Police spokesperson Theodoros Chronopoulos confirmed that an investigation was ongoing but did not provide any more information.
CPJ emailed the press department of the Athens prosecutor’s office and the Greek National Intelligence Service for comment, but did not receive any replies.