One of the things that struck me 11 years ago about English language newspapers and magazines in Greece was how racist they were.
Not content to sit idly by, I edited a copy of a certain newspaper, highlighted what was racist and sent it to the managing editor. He acknowledged the typos and poor grammar when we spoke in person, but nothing else. I should have given him a copy of journalistic ethics.
In conversation with the head of another publication, who is a trained professional from abroad, it felt like we were standing on a slippery slope and the subject was dropped.
Are there rules?
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is considered the “gold standard of news writing,” a bible by which many professional journalists and editors live and work. Inside are more than 3,000 style rules and explanations on capitalization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, word and numeral usage, abbreviations, business and sports guidelines and media law. Rules are updated to change with the times.
Many publications have their own style guidelines based loosely on the AP or Chicago Manual of Style, but the media code of ethics is the same.
The following stance on race is explained.
“Identification of race is pertinent:
— In biographical and announcement stories, particularly when they involve a feat or appointment that has not routinely been associated with members of a particular race.
— When it provides the reader with substantial insight into conflicting emotions known or likely to be involved in a demonstration or similar event.
In some stories that involve a conflict, it is equally important to specify that an issue cuts across racial lines. If, for example, a demonstration for supporters of busing to achieve racial balance in schools includes a substantial number of whites, that fact should be noted.
Do not use racially derogatory terms unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.”
This style rule exists because going against it has the power to influence and bias readers en masse. It contributes to hostility and false beliefs about certain nationalities that cannot be undone once a seed has been planted and taken root, even with hard statistics as evidence.
The point is, media should not identify race in all cases or no cases. If Greek media chooses to use nationalities when identifying perpetrators, they should do it with both Greeks and foreigners, not just foreigners.
In Greek media
To illustrate how Greek media is less racist now, three sets of examples will be presented to show the progression. They represent a small sampling of what Greek media presents and by no means is limited to English-language publications, as a great number of cases can be found in all mediums (TV, print, radio, online) in every language.
Three months ago:
A growing population of people inside and outside Greece believe that foreigners are to blame for the majority of crime, drugs and violent death, and the media play a big part. They choose which stories to report and how to present them.
#1: Fatal stabbing
A 42-year-old Greek man was fatally stabbed yesterday after trying to resolve a dispute between two men over a Moldovan woman, police in Athens said. The Greek man intervened after seeing the men, a Pole and an Albanian, arguing in the street in the district of Aghios Panteleimonas, but was allegedly knifed in the chest by the Albanian national, who subsequently fled on foot. The unnamed 42-year-old was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
#2: Officers overpower suspects in Athens bar
Police have arrested two Albanian men, wanted for 13 armed robberies in the last few months, during a random check of an Athens nightspot, authorities said yesterday.
Police said the two suspects, armed with fully loaded handguns, fought with police in a bid to evade arrest but were eventually detained. The men, aged 23 and 26, are believed to have been part of a six-member gang that held up banks and companies in Patras in the Peloponnese and the greater Athens area.
They are also suspected of stealing dozens of cars for their armed heists by forcing the owners out of the vehicles as they pulled up at a kiosk or traffic lights. Police have launched a manhunt for the remaining gang members, including a 28-year-old man who escaped from a prison in Larissa, central Greece.
#3: Hash haul
Police in northern Greece yesterday confiscated more than 45 kilos of cannabis after spotting five Albanians cross the border with several bags. One of the Albanians was caught but the other four crossed back into Albania, eluding arrest. Separately, officers in the area of Sitaria, Ioannina, arrested a local resident believed to have been cultivating cannabis. Officers uprooted more than 12 cannabis plants from his garden.
Whenever a nationality or race isn’t given, it is assumed the person in question is Greek. In other countries, this same assumption isn’t possible because all people appear generically as “42-year-old man” or “woman” unless meeting one of the style rules given above. An example of a story that would call for nationalities to be named is, “Israeli attacked in Greece” because it was racially motivated.
Half and half:
This is a case of half disclosure — nationalities of the victims were disclosed, but not those of the 13 indicted for murder. Why? Draw your own conclusions.
A Thessaloniki court yesterday indicted 13 people, including five minors, in connection with the brutal killing of two teenagers at a basketball court near the northern city’s railway station last May. The charges faced include murder, illegal weapon possession and causing grievous bodily harm. A 17-year-old Georgian and an 18-year-old Albanian died in a brawl involving dozens of youths. The fracas began after an argument over possession of the ball during a game of basketball and escalated as youths drew knives, crowbars and other weapons, according to police.
About a month ago, I noticed a distinct difference in the way these briefs were written. It initially happened over the weekend and reverted back Monday through Friday, but the change has been consistent of late.
This is the correct way to present media, though I suspect the damage is done and a majority of readers make assumptions and unconsciously insert nationalities in their heads.
#1: Robber confronted
A 27-year-old homeowner and a 53-year-old alleged thief were yesterday being treated in a hospital in Katerini, northern Greece, after falling from a first-floor balcony. The younger man allegedly confronted the would-be thief in his home and began fighting with him, which led to both men falling and being taken to the hospital. No details of their injuries were made public. Police said that the 56-year-old was being kept under police guard at the hospital in Katerini.
#2: Drug overdose
A 42-year-old man has been found dead in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, from a suspected drug overdose. His body was found at the side of a road by a passer-by. A used needle was found next to his body. The man was not named.
#3: Heroin haul
Police arrested three men, aged between 42 to 51, in Thessaloniki yesterday, accused of selling drugs after police found in their possession two kilos of heroin. Officers came across the drugs when one of the suspects attempted to sell to an undercover officer 3.7 grams of heroin for 200 euros. A search of one of the suspect’s homes uncovered the narcotics hidden in an outdoor area and lead to the arrests of the other two men. Police said there was an outstanding arrest warrant for one of the suspects, aged 42, for drug trade.
Regrettably, this news organization reverted back to listing nationalities in an inconsistent and unethical manner. For example:
For foreigners: “Pakistani murders husband of pregnant wife”
For Greeks: “Two men arrested for stealing train cables”
For foreigners: “Man dies after attack” (He was an Iraqi and a victim of racist violence, so his nationality was relevant)
For Greeks: “Greek man killed for camera” (His citizenship was irrelevant because robbery was the motive, but the suspect was an immigrant and then became a focal point to fuel nationalism)
Progress was quashed. What a shame. Racism, discrimination and xenophobia are at an all-time high since the debt crisis, with unprovoked beatings and knifings, “Greek only” events and neo-Nazis elected to Parliament in 2012.
Style of this site
I consciously differentiate between native Greeks, repatriated Greeks, EU citizens and non-EU citizens because this country assigns hierarchy in that order. That’s reality, courtesy of Greece. Don’t like it? Me either.
I also refer to people as Greek or not in some posts to dispel assumptions that mistreatment or unfair bias has only been at the hands of non-Greeks, and “victims” are only foreigners, immigrants or expats. That’s completely untrue.
This country works in mysterious ways, and discrimination and unfair practices occur across the board regardless of nationality, ethnic origin and gender.
In the News
“Racism is cultural, a way of life in Greece, not due to crisis” — The Economist
“Greece’s epidemic of racist attacks” — NY Times
“Life in Greece worse than Taliban” — CBN
“Greek-only blood bank seeks donors” — Reuters
“Identifying nationality in crime stories” — Kathimerini
“Sixty percent of Greeks hope newcomers replace current media” – Kathimerini
“Gutter press flourishes” – Kathimerini
“Neo-Nazis vs. immigrants: A familiar scapegoat” — NY Times
“Gangs of Greeks regularly attack immigrants; police do nothing” — Reuters
“Photographer detained while reporting on plight of illegal immigrants in Greece”
“Greece: Where democratic ideals go to die” — A Matter of Opinion
“Brutally racist event in the birthplace of democracy” — Kathimerini
“Greeks only: At night they beat people; by day they give away food” — NBC News
“Greek athlete booted from Olympics for racist tweet” — Reuters
“Nazi punk musician wins seat in Parliament” — Ynet
“Greek neo-Nazis set up Australian chapter” — The Australian
Letter from fromoldbooks.org