Teachers take the floor (and seize a TV channel)

In Greece, they are discussing the media "law"

May 27, 2010

"Is this democracy?" asks one of the producers of the news program. "Ha, ha, that was a good one!" the demonstrators answer.

For a few minutes, the government-owned channel remained in a tense calm, protected by cops equipped with gas and billy clubs. A calm which ended when determined professors, teachers and students burst in on the studios.

It is the night of May 3. The program hostess is interviewing an official. But she is abruptly taken off the air. On the screen, they extend a commercial break, but in the studios, anger is rising in pitch and demands to be broadcast live, for the whole audience.

A tug of war between the bosses of the channel (Greek government officials) and demonstrators. The program hostess says that she feels like a hostage. The teachers answer her: "No, you can leave if you wish." She shuts up and hopes her bosses will find a solution.

The cameras are turned on again. But no report on the government’s austerity measures is being presented. Nor are they interviewing any Minister to explain the misfortune the population is going to experience. They are not even going to the weather forecast. The journalist hands the microphone over to the demonstrators. One of the teachers, calmly, in a steady voice, begins to explain.

"We are professors and teachers. We are here for two reasons. First, because there has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of the media, for the last six months, concerning the government’s measures. Second, because it is time to intervene in the Minister’s monologue about the new law that is tearing up public schools. The cops that were already inside the NET studios, were waiting for us. We condemn the Minister and the NET administration for their action. They are demolishing public schools.... They are firing thousands of teachers.... Once again, the price is being paid by us. The IMF’s participation has caused thousands of layoffs and more poverty. Everyone, to the streets, to throw out the IMF and those who have brought us to the situation! On May 5, everyone on strike, no one working!"

There are no rating figures taken for the seizure of the government TV station. Far from opening the microphones to workers, the media (both state-run and private) continue their "conspiracy of silence."

But on Wednesday, May 5, the strike was massive, and for weeks, thousands of workers and students have been marching through the streets of Athens, aware that the plan to reduce the government’s "deficit" means more unemployment and poverty. The occupation of the TV channel scarcely lasted for a few hours, but it reminded us of the media occupied by the Mexican people of Oaxaca during the long months of 2006.

While "democratization" of the communications media is being debated, censorship and lying by the mass media (private or state-owned) are the rule in this "globalized" world. The Greek teachers took the floor decisively, applying a law neither written down nor approved in the parliaments of this democracy for the rich. And they made themselves heard.