Aiding Terror in Greece

September 13, 1991

The Greek government has harmed Greece and democrac and aided terrorism by sending seven editors to prison for the crime of printing a terrorist's statement. It is not the aim of the Conservative prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, to mount a dictatorship or curb dissent. But that is the effect.

Mr. Mitsotakis had a law passed last December making the printing of a self-serving terrorist's statement a crime because he believe it encourages bombings and kidnappings. There is an element of truth to this. Terror is conducted for the publicity value. If no one knew it occurred, it would be like a thunderclap in an empty desert. Mr. Mitsotakis is sincere in wanting to wipe the terrorists out. The November 17 terrorist group murdered his son-in-law in 1979.

An editor published a statement last June by the November 17 group claiming responsibility for rocket attacks against foreign firms. He was arrested. Six more papers printed the statement in sympathy. All seven editors were found guilty of breaking the new law, which an Athens court found constitutional. All seven were sentenced to five months, which six began serving immediately.

What the Greek papers printed was news. The only thing worse than printing it is not printing it. Even worse is punishing those who do. The terrorists are no friends of a free press. They might try to manipulate it but they would crush it on attaining power. The intimidation and censorship so brutally achieved by the Mitsotakis government achieves that. It brings Greece back to the 1967-74 era of the Colonels' dictatorship.

The prime minister, more than the editors, is aiding terror. In defense of freedom, which terrorists threaten, Mr. Mitsotakis finds himself fighting freedom and not terrorism. Jailing the journalists won't halt a single rocket attack. But it will make the Greek people as distrustful of their media as the Russian people were, until recently, of theirs.

Mr. Mitsotakis thought he was elected to ensure democracy for Greece. Instead he finds himself the official who administered the hemlock to Socrates. And he is handing to the Socialist opposition the gift of being able to campaign against the government in the name of free speech. He ought to free the journalists, and free the journals, and he ought to quit doing the terrorists' work.

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