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Press Office

Rome, 10 May 2022

Hellenic Parliament MPs bring Hagia Sophia vandalism and freedom of the press to attention of Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee

A delegation of Greek MPs took part in the work of the PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and the Media, which took place from 9 to 10 May in Rome.

Delegation members Fotini Pipili, Alexandros Triantaphyllidis, Theodoros Roussopoulos and Nina Kasimati, took part in discussions on youth and the media, Cultural Corridors as a platform for intercultural dialogue, the role of Remembrance Sites, the control of internet communication as posing a threat to media pluralism and freedom of information, the Council of Europe's Open Academic Networks (OCEAN) programme and the impact of climate change on cultural heritage.

At the beginning of proceedings, PACE President Tiny Kox and the Minister of Culture of Italy (as Chair of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers) Dario Franceschini addressed the meeting’s participants.

In his question to the Minister, Mr Triantaphyllidis asked to be informed about the Italian Presidency's planned initiatives in relation to Istanbul's Hagia Sophia vandalism, an incident that has prompted global outrage. He noted that such incidents clearly result from the monument’s conversion into a mosque by the Erdogan Government, despite the fact that it has been protected by UNESCO since 1985, and concluded that such images show the lack of respect for the Council of Europe's fundamental principles and values.

In his reply, the Italian Minister underlined the obligation to respect and preserve UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the need for the Italian Presidency to urge the Turkish Government to comply with this obligation.

Speaking on media freedom, the Greek MP described the manipulation of political power by media owners as a major problem for democracy, together with the use of the latter by political power to push through their policies. He paid tribute to the murdered journalists DK Galicia from Malta and G. Karaivaz, as well as to the war correspondents who lost their lives on the Russian-Ukrainian front and to those who are in Turkish prisons because of their beliefs. Closing, he condemned the "peculiar regime" encountered in Europe, namely, the persecution, dismissal and even murder of journalists, and stressed the need for social accountability and transparency. Finally, Mr Triantaphyllides, during discussion on  "cultural corridors", asked to designate Thessaloniki as a European city of remembrance, on grounds of the Holocaust Museum under construction, and gave a brief account of the city’s Jewish community history.

Mrs Kasimati referred to the murder of the Greek journalist G. Karaivaz, still unsolved, and to the case of K. Vaxevanis, who has been brought to justice because of his Novartis scandal investigation. The MP called on both the Committee and the Council of Europe to work for the protection of the media and the freedom of expression, as a key pillar of democracy, and on national governments to strengthen their legal frameworks, especially in light of global challenges facing humanity today.

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