BBC: Greek media upheaval hits Mega TV channel

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It has been a nerve-wracking week for staff at Greece’s oldest private TV channel, Mega.

On Tuesday, after going for two months without pay, staff were told the channel’s owner could go bankrupt, shutting down the operation for good.

But at the eleventh hour, shareholders agreed to prop up the company. So for now, at least, the 500 staff are breathing a sigh of relief.

Burdened by bank loans estimated at €116m ($129m; £88m), the channel’s future has been unclear for a long time.

Since the financial crisis hit Greece in 2010, many media operations have had to shut down. One of the most memorable was Alter TV, whose owner was charged with tax evasion and imprisoned, and 700 staff suddenly lost their jobs.

Six years on, the country is still suffering. Its economy has shrunk by a quarter and the unemployment rate is the highest in the EU at 24%.

A slump in advertising has made it harder for media outlets to survive.

The turnover of Greek advertising firms fell from €1bn in 2007 to just €250m in 2014. And the turnover of the surviving private TV channels halved over the same period.

To read the full article on the BBC click HERE.

Little Atoms: Life inside Idomeni

When I visited the makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni this month, it felt like an organised community. The tents may have been broken, the water cold and the queues for the doctor endless. But the thousands of people living there (at its height more than 20,000) had turned what was an empty muddy field into the beginnings of a village. I bought my morning coffee from a Syrian man for one euro. My lunch from another who’d just set up a mini falafel stall. If I’d stayed longer I could’ve visited the local hairdresser for five euros.

But this week after the Greek government ramped up its efforts to remove people from Idomeni, that infrastructure was torn apart.

Seven hundred police officers were sent into the area in an operation that’s set to continue for a week. So far around 2,000 people have left peacefully. Roughly 8,000 remain.

According to Greece the refugees have to move for a number of reasons. They have no legal right to be there – the land is private; they are blocking the train tracks costing freight companies thousands of euros; the conditions are dire; but most importantly they say, they must leave for their own good. At Idomeni, they are not legally protected and can’t be formally registered unless they stay at the official camps. It’s logical.

But for many of the refugees remaining, logic went out of the window two months ago when Europe closed its borders, essentially washing it’s hands of the biggest refugee crisis it’s seen since World War 2. Last year one million refugees fled war, risked their lives crossing stormy seas, spent their entire life savings just to reach a safe place only to discover that Europe did not want know.

Now their biggest fear is if they leave the Macedonian border at idomeni, they will be forgotten. Their fight for safe passage will not be heard and it will be all too easy for the world to pretend that they didn’t exist.

Mustafa, from Aleppo, is documenting the arrival of the army on his Facebook page, refugees.tv. He says he will stay for 10 years if that’s what it takes – despite the squalid conditions. He is determined to stay put.

More than 50,000 refugees are now stuck in Greece. In camps across the country, where despite the Greek government doing its best to accommodate people, there are rising tensions. Fights every night over phone chargers, over meals that include chicken or any meat all. There have been reports of sexual abuse. So, many – fearful of the unknown –  choose to stay at idomeni thinking at least they’re close to the border, should anything change.

When we left Idomeni people were packing up, not to leave for Athens but to try once again to get through the border with the help of smugglers. Many had tried a handful of times but were always unsuccessful.

‘We cant compete with the people smugglers.
They sell hope’

The government spokesman says the smugglers are the biggest problem. “We can’t compete with them. They sell hope.”

One of my new Syrian friends was lucky enough to make it to Northern Europe. She made it to Sweden, where her brother was already living.

She’s just sent me a photo of her old tent at Idomeni, bulldozed by Greek police. Her old home. Her home that became my home when I stayed there, where her mother made me rice and aubergines. Where we chatted to the neighbour whose baby was scarred by Isis, where we drank tea,  played with the children and  sheltered from the rain..

“Does it make you feel sad?” I ask.

“Yes..” She says. “Because it’s the end of people’s dreams.”

“What’s is the dream?”

“For the borders to open” she says.

Until they do, or until Europe can come up with a better solution than the current deal with Turkey that has managed to resettle a measly 177 Syrians into the EU since March, I see little hope. The deal doesn’t even apply to the 50,000 refugees left stranded in camps across Greece – a country in its sixth year of financial crisis, struggling to look after its own people.

I’m reminded of a comment by Lord Dubs, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport for Jewish children fleeing the Nazis before World War 2.

When asked about Europe’s response to the current refugee crisis, he replied:

“Those of us who believe in humanitarian values and traditions must speak out. We’re a modern advanced continent. This shouldn’t happen”.

This article was originally published HERE at Little Atoms.

 

BBC: Big Greek wedding for Syrians in muddy refugee camp

It has been a tough week for the refugees camped out on the northern Greek border with Macedonia.

First some were hit by tear gas as they tried to cross the border into Macedonia, then the stormy weather played havoc with their fragile tents. Most of the tents here were donated by charities but they are not fully waterproof.

Despite the squalid conditions, the makeshift camp of Idomeni is witnessing something of a marriage phenomenon. In the past few days, a handful of couples have become engaged and the camp has become a wedding venue for the first time.

To read the full article on the BBC click HERE

BBC: The Greek grandmothers

Eftratia Mavrapidi (left) Maritsa Mavrapidi (middle) Militsa Kamvisi (right)Image copyrightLEFTERIS PARTSALIS

When a Syrian mother arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos, drenched and struggling to feed her baby, three grandmothers, or yiayiades stepped in. Militsa Kamvisi, 83, gave the baby a bottle of milk while she and her friends sang a lullaby. The photo, taken by Lefteris Partsalis in October, immediately went viral and there was a flood of admiration for the “three grannies and a baby” on Twitter.

“Thank goodness,” said one tweet, “there are the grandmothers of Lesbos who are able to wash away our shame.”

The photo reflects the strength, courage and down-to-earth attitude Greeks associate with yiayiades, many of whom have lived through a world war, a civil war, a dictatorship and now a financial crisis. In today’s Greece it is often their pensions and positive approach that keep entire families going.

Grandma Militsa has said she does not think her response was anything extraordinary. As a child of a refugee herself she saw her act of kindness as a moral duty. Her mother fled Turkey with nothing in 1922 at the end of the Greco-Turkish War and also ended up on the shores of Lesbos dependent on its residents for help.

She is among three people nominated for the Nobel prize to represent the behaviour and attitude of Greece and volunteers towards the refugee crisis.

Last week Greek grandmothers were again the ones taking the lead handing out food to refugees in Athens. One was 92 years old. Her daughter said it was she who had made them pack a car full of sandwiches and cake and go to Victoria Square.

For the full article click HERE

Without Swift Debt Relief for Greece, The Last Five Years Will be the Prelude to More Chaos

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If my childhood could have a soundtrack it would be my Dad’s conflicted thoughts and inner debates about whether to go back to Greece. He left there for the UK the year I was born. Twice he packed us up ready to go back..

Once in a Volkswagen camper van and we even stayed for a year. But, ultimately he always came to the conclusion that life in the UK would be better.

Probably the most tragic thing he’s ever said to me is that “Greece is a great country, but only for holidays.” I can see why he would say that…

To read the rest of my HUFFPOST article click HERE.

#ThisIsACoup A documentary

Our new documentary series #ThisIsACoup is now online on The Intercept’s Field of Vision website. I am extremely excited to collaborate with them and extremely grateful to the crowdfunders, without whom we would never have been able to tell this amazing, yet very tragic story. Our team worked super hard for a whole year on this and I’m so thankful to the people who opened up their lives to us and our cameras throughout this emotional roller coaster and important period of history.