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Govt coalition parties ‘boycott’ media outlet amid sharp criticism over wildfire destruction, deaths

The two parties comprising the current Tsipras coalition government, radical leftist SYRIZA and its small junior partner, the right-wing AN.EL party, on Thursday reacted to fiery press criticism in the wake of Monday’s deadly wildfire by “boycotting” Athens broadcaster Skai – among its most vocal media critics.

The government and the two coalition parties took umbrage with the way the broadcaster – its television radio stations – is presenting coverage of the wildfires and the resulting catastrophe, with the death toll on Thursday at 82 and expected to rise.

“After the vile attack against the heads of the fire brigade and police, which Skai executed upon demand, SYRIZA’s cadres and MPs will not participate in TV and radio programs (by Skai),” a party announcement said, citing a previous day’s report that the government may cashier law enforcement’s leadership. The latter media report was angrily denied by the government.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, the head of the small junior coalition partner and himself a “magnet” for sharp opposition and media criticism, also said his remaining party MPs will “boycott” the broadcaster.

In reply, Athens-based Skai, which boasts high television and radio ratings, dismissed the criticism leveled against it by the government and the two political parties.

 “Skai performs its journalistic mission with professionalism and objectivity. It has responsibly stood up before the arrogance and conceit of many governments … today’s announcement by the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) exceeds all boundaries and shows where insecurity and ineptitude in managing a major crisis leads to. We will not follow them. We’ll continue to do our job, as we know how to do it. The citizens, in fact, know very well who is engaging in cheap propaganda and who is doing their job.”