for his action taken against The Athens Review of Books
WE wish to protest in the strongest terms the action taken by Nikos Kotzias, Foreign Minister of Greece, against the publisher of the Athens Review of Books (ARB), resulting in the freezing of the bank accounts of its publisher and the impounding of the proceeds of the sales from its distribution company. The purpose of this unconscionable and vindictive action by the Foreign Minister is to cause the financial ruin of the ARB, forcing it to cease publication. Beyond the threatened destruction of an important publication, this development deals a severe blow to the right of free speech in Greece and to the uninhibited dissemination of knowledge and exchange of ideas, which are essential prerequisites of an open and democratic society.
The ARB is one of Greece’s most stimulating forums of intellectual discourse, especially in the fields of literature, history, culture and the arts. In its attractive monthly issues the works of major Greek and foreign authors are discussed by prominent scholars and intellectuals with the sophistication and style one finds in much older and prestigious journals such as the New York Review of Books, with which the ARB is collaborating since 2010. Thus the ARB has earned a rare place of distinction in the world market of intellectual dialogue.
The facts of the case against the ARB are well known. During the height of the Cold War Nikos Kotzias, a prominent communist activist and theorist, published various books and articles extolling the virtues of Soviet-style totalitarian regimes, and particularly that of East Germany. Several years ago the ARB printed a letter from a reader who accused Dr. Kotzias of having been a propagandist of the Greek communist party and an enthusiastic defender of Stalinism. Dr. Kotzias sued the ARB for libel and despite the overwhelming and convincing evidence presented by the defense, the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff and imposed on the ARB and its publisher a heavy compensation. On the basis of those verdicts the ARB bank accounts have been frozen. The case will end up before the European Court of Human Rights.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rapid dismantling of communist regimes across Eastern Europe, ideologically-driven paeans extolling the virtues of totalitarian communism such as those published by Dr. Kotzias have been discredited. Whether he wrote out of conviction or to curry favor with his party’s leaders, he cannot now disown his published work or seek to silence its critics. Having exercised his right to promote his perceptions and beliefs he cannot now deny others their right to characterize his publications as Stalinist propaganda.
The ARB is a valuable cultural forum that must be defended against political influence of any kind.
– Lars Baerentzen, Department of Modern Greek, University of Copenhagen, retired
– Richard Clogg, Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford
– Kevin Featherstone, Eleftherios Venizelos Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Professor of European Studies, London School of Economics
– John O. Iatrides, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Southern Connecticut State University
– James E. Miller, Chair, European Studies, Foreign Service Institute, retired
– Dimitris Papadimitriou, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester.
IS freedom of speech in danger in Greece? Extensive litigation against Andreas Georgiou, former president of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, and against the publisher and editor of the literary magazine Athens Review of Book (ARB) are causing concern about freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Greece and about Greece’s international reputation as a country governed under the rule of law.
After numerous adventures and misadventures, the Georgiou case is heading for a resolution under pressure from the Eurozone and the IMF. The comical allegations against Mr. Georgiou, claiming that he fraudulently dragged the country into a sequence of stabilization programs, are to be withdrawn.
But the government and its judicial authorities are continuing the campaign against the Athens Review of Books for slander of the Foreign Minister. The Athens Review of Books is a quality magazine, a veritable oasis for scholars from all over the world who write for thoughtful and independent citizens. The periodical is being hounded because it has delved into the political past of the Foreign Minister, underlining the difference between his views in the present and those in the past.
It is the inalienable right of every citizen to change his political views as he wishes, particularly when conditions dictate such a change. But this flexibility does not give anyone, even in the Foreign Ministry, a license to censor others, particularly journalists and historians.
Freedom of speech is a precious intellectual and social asset, which distinguishes developed countries from others. The persecutors of the Hellenic Statistical Authority and the Athens Review of Books mar the country’s reputation and further jeopardize the younger generation’s already difficult future.
Αre they insensitive to the consequences, or do they not understand what is at stake?
21th August 2017
Costas Azariadis, Professor of Economics, Edward Mollinckrodt Chair, Washington University, St. Louis
Yannis M. Ioannides, Professor of Economics, Max and Herta Neubauer Chair, Tufts University
Christopher A. Pissarides, Nobel Prize for Economic Science, 2010. Regius Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science. Member of the Academy of Athens.