Greek journalists and government officials testify before MEPs

The EP inquiry committee heard Greek journalists describe their experiences as surveillance targets and investigators, and discussed the issue with Greek government officials.

On Thursday 8 September, Parliament’s Spyware Inquiry Committee held a public hearing on Greece.

Journalists denounce the impact of surveillance on EU values

During the first panel, MPs heard testimony from Greek journalists who have either been targeted by spyware or investigated surveillance cases.

Thanasis Koukakis and Stavros Malichudis argued that their journalistic work led to their targeting. Koukakis noted that his surveillance would not have been properly assessed had it not been for the Pegasus Commission of Inquiry and the checks carried out on the deputies’ phones, which revealed that the phone of Nikos Androulakis (S&D, EL) had also been targeted. Malichudis noted that at the time of his surveillance, he was in talks about creating an international network of journalists covering refugee issues, so sensitive information about journalists in other countries may also have come to light. .

Eliza Triantafillou spoke about his investigative work on the use of spyware in Greece. Triantafillou found that formal investigations into privacy breaches seemed to move slowly, while investigations into media leaks moved much faster. She argued that credible investigations into the activities of spyware vendor Intellexa are needed.

MEPs agreed on the need to urgently investigate spyware companies, highlighting the risk of destruction of evidence. They highlighted the negative consequences for democracy, media freedom and freedom of expression. They also questioned whether Greece was heading towards an authoritarian direction, to which guest speakers noted that at least journalists experienced a negative climate for criticizing the government. MEPs expressed interest in export licenses for spyware in Greece but also in Cyprus.

Faster national inquiries are needed, say MEPs

In the second panel, MEPs heard from representatives of the Greek government. The three officials stressed the severe restrictions imposed on them by law regarding the disclosure of top secret information, and that they must not affect ongoing investigations and judicial independence by publicly commenting on such information. Questions. Athanasios Staveris (Secretary General of the Department of Digital Governance) described the government’s national security strategy and timetable, as well as efforts to incorporate European cybersecurity legislation (e.g. NIS2 directive) into national law.

Panos Alexandris (Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice) welcomes the work of the commission and underlines the rights to privacy, family life and data protection provided for in Greek legislation. He also highlighted the role of the Independent Hellenic Authority for Communications Security and Privacy (ADAE) in safeguarding fundamental privacy rights. Finally, President of the ADAE Christos Rammos spoke about the Authority’s oversight role and shared his views on its legal limitations related to criminal prosecution.

MEPs argued that EU citizens needed more transparency, noted that the government had promised to investigate the cases in question quickly and urged it to make faster progress. They questioned reports that national intelligence records of people under surveillance had been unlawfully destroyed, and highlighted the responsibilities of privacy authorities under the General Privacy Regulation. data (GDPR) from the EU. They also asked to what extent the current EU legal framework was suitable for investigating digital communications and discussed the implications of the events in Greece for all EU Member States, as well as for the European Parliament itself. same.

You can follow the hearing at the Parliament’s Multimedia Centre.

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