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International backing for Greek journalist in IMF row

July 15, 2012

July 13 - Threats by a senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Greece to cut off a newspaper's access to information after one of its journalists refused to reveal his sources have been condemned by the European Federation of Journalists today.

The threat was made by Mr. Bob Traa, Senior IMF Resident Representative in Athens, who was reacting to a story by Greek journalist Zois Tsolis for the TO VIMA newspaper.

On 24 June 2012, Tsolis published an exclusive report in the weekly newspaper that included facts and data on an increase in the number of public servants in some ministries over the last two years, despite contrary recommendations in the memorandum of understanding agreed with the "Troika" - the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

After being asked to attend a meeting with Mr Traa, Zois Tsolis was bluntly asked to reveal "how he managed to find" the documents used for his article. Traa then threatened to stop communicating with the newspaper TO VEMA, claiming that there are other newspapers ‘accurately delivering' data they provide.

"Such a behavior of a high-ranking international official is inappropriate and threatening for our profession" said EFJ President Arne König. "Asking a journalist to reveal the source of accurate information is clearly an infringement of fundamental press freedom standards".

"As international and European institutions are squeezing Greek social rights in the name of austerity, we say that the public needs to be informed about what is happening and that journalists need to be able to work without pressure and without fear" said the President of the International Federation of Journalists Jim Boumelha.

Mr. Tsolis is a member of the EFJ/IFJ affiliate, the Journalists' Union of Athens Daily Newspaper (JUADN), which warned that "such a behavior is also offensive for all the Greek Press".

The EFJ and the IFJ are calling on representatives of international organisations in Greece, and in particular Mr Traa, to respect press freedom and journalists' professional rights.

For more information contact:
European Federation of Journalists
Phone: +32 2 235.2200

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