By Peter Stevenson
AROUND 50 demonstrators turned up for a protest outside the Greek Embassy in the capital yesterday just after 11am following the Greek government’s announcement on Tuesday that it was closing state broadcaster ERT.
Political parties in Cyprus yesterday expressed their support for the employees of ERT, along with civil servants who stopped working for five minutes in protest. Staff at parliament stopped working for 15 minutes and CyBC went of the air for ten minutes last night after the main news bulletin.
The group outside the Greek embassy yesterday was a mix of left-wing students, CyBC employees, and members of the journalists union, headed by Antonis Makrides.
Protesters held up banners saying ‘ERT is not a supermarket, it is a national treasure’, and ‘A gap in information is a hole in democracy’. The road outside the embassy was not closed off by the police, which resulted in a small argument between protesters and three officers who were on duty.
Political science graduate Argyris Matsentides, 25, told the Mail: “We came here to show support to the Greek people who have been wronged but also to protest against the policies of the troika,” he said.
Matsentides said he feared Cyprus could very well be next as the country was heading in the same direction as Greece.
Former ERT correspondent in Cyprus, Costas Yennaris who was also outside the Greek Embassy. He said he believed the Greek government should not have made the decision to close the channel down. “Neither CyBC nor ERT truly belong to the state, they belong to the community,” he said.
“The station obviously had problems but they should look to fix those problems as many Greeks and Cypriots identify with the channel,” he added.
With more than 20 years of experience in working with ERT, Yennaris said he felt the announcement on Tuesday evening by the Greek spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou, was essentially declaring war on the people.
“I am encouraged by the people’s reaction though as it shows the government’s provocative approach will not be accepted,” he said.
Yennaris added that he believed people need to react to show the government here in Cyprus too, that they will not simply accept decisions which go against the democratic rights of the people.
Certain websites in Greece yesterday published lists of the alleged extortionate wages ERT reporters were on in an attempt to deflect all the blame from the government. The highest salary reported was €324,000 a year.
Greek national, and CyBC radio producer Costas Sotiropoulos said he felt that the Greek government’s decision to shut ERT down was like shutting down the voice of Greece beyond its borders. “Yesterday was a black day in Greece’s history and it was a decision which has truly enraged us,” he said.
Maria, a 19-year-old student blamed the Greek government and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. “He doesn’t care that thousands of people will be unemployed now,” she said.
Giorgos, a 22-year-old student said he believed the Greek government had made a completely un-democratic decision. “We are trying to send a message to the Greek government but also to the Cyprus government that we will not accept any measures which encroach on our liberties,” he said.