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Thursday, 21 July 2016 12:08

The relation and the boundary line between freedom of speech and expression on one hand and defamation on the other provokes always great discussion. Recently Stratis Balaskas, a Greek journalist, was convicted for defamation after characterizing a fellow citizen, who is also an educator and director of a public High School, as “neo-Nazi”. Specifically, the reporter was convicted for publishing libels. The case was brought in front of the Court of Appeals, where the conviction was reaffirmed. The plaintiff, who denied any connection with such ideas and/or organizations, has published in the past several articles in websites and blogs (using also his account at the “Hellenic School Network”, a web platform of the Ministry of Education that connects educators and schools around Greece) where he argues in favor of the “Aryan race” and calls all the nationalists of the country –and especially the teachers and the parents- to unite in order to fight for the preservation of “racial purity” and spread the truth about the Jews among others. The Court decided that the characterization “neo-Nazi” is defamatory and convicted the defendant to three months jail time. Finally, the case will be considered again by the Supreme Court.

Following articles in the Greek press about this case, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece issued the following announcement in order to support Mr. Balaska’s claim for justice:

Every well-ordered society has its principles that define what is right and wrong, while the fundamental right of the freedom of speech constitutes the cornerstone every democracy. With these thoughts in mind, we worry about the conviction of the reporter Stratis Balaskas by the Court of Appeals. Mr. Balaskas, according to a press article, was convicted for defamation through the medium of the Press, after calling, in one of his articles, as “national-socialist and neo-Nazi” the Director of a local High School of Lesbos.

Therefore, we deem it appropriate to make some relevant observations: Firstly, to distinguish between the notion of National-Socialism and the notion of Nazism is historically totally incorrect, let alone to consider that the first one implies a mildest characterization than the second. According to the press article, the convicted Mr. Balaskas had rightly denounced the extreme beliefs of the plaintiff, criticizing in that way the work of a public professor and considering that the social role of the plaintiff is not consistent with the expression of extreme nationalist speech. 

Moreover, it is a really discouraging fact that a professor expresses this kind of extreme thoughts without any consequences. A teacher has no right to become a preacher of intolerance. Ideas such as extreme nationalism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism have no place in students’ education. 

We consider it our duty to stand by Mr. Balaskas and support his fight for justice, while our faith to the judiciary system remains strong.

Finally, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece will always condemn any expression of hate speech and any intolerant behavior.  

Athens, July 14, 2016

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece


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