ATHENS – Greek government exposed over COVID-19 awareness funds

Media group ALTER EGO has decided to return almost €1 million of public funds it received from the government as part of a campaign to raise awareness over the pandemic due to lack of transparency in the process of distributing the funds.

The conservative New Democracy government (EPP) distributed €20 million to news websites, printed journals and TV and radio stations for the awareness campaign “We stay home” calling on citizens to respect the lockdown.

The government initially did not make the list of the media recipients public.

Following intense pressure by the main opposition Syriza party, the government eventually published the list of media prompting surprise among lawmakers that media with tiny readerships, and some which did not exist, received large sums of public money.

Syriza hinted that the money was distributed based on political criteria and whether media were sympathetic towards the government.

In a statement, ALTER EGO, one of the country’s biggest media groups, announced that it has already returned the money.

“Because we do not agree with the method […] of the advertising campaign and in addition, because we want to declare our independence from state funds, controversial procedures and distributions in a straightforward and clear manner, we returned on 8 July the amounts that our group received,” the group said.

“We urge the government to allocate the returned amount to the families of the unemployed media workers,” it added.

“Following the government’s fiasco with the publication of the list of shame, Alter Ego returns the money, even denouncing opaque procedures. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and government spokesperson Stelios Petsas are heavily exposed,” Syriza said in a statement.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com)

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