“Freedom Talks 2020 - The courage of expression and the freedom of speech”

Mr Christos Sotirakopoulos
Mr Christos Sotirakopoulos

The first event for 2020 for project Greece was inspired by the Global Topic about disinformation and the freedom of expression. In a full house, at the youth hub of Six D.O.G.S. at the very center of Athens, more than 120 liberals came along to take part, talk and celebrate the New Year with the Greek custom of “Vasilopita” (the equivalent of King’s pie in northern Europe).

The event began with the screening of the video “What it is.” Next, Dr Athanasios Grammenos, Project Manager for Greece offered the welcome address to the audience, presenting the program of the evening.

Mr Christos Sotirakopoulos
Mr Christos Sotirakopoulos

The first guest speaker was Mr Christos Sotirakopoulos who is one of the most prominent and notable sports journalists in Greece. Mr Sotirakopoulos talked about the freedom of expression for in Greece, arguing that this is a very big issue because oftentimes the reporters face strong pressure and even censorship from special interests and media conglomerates. However, he underscored that his is in no way excuse for those journalists who finally yield and promote partisan opinions. The journalist has to fight for his independence and this is not an easy task, he added.

The second guest speaker was Mr Eduardo Massieu Paredes, official Representative of (a.i.) President of Venezuela Juan Guaidó to the Hellenic Republic. The Greek government recognizes Juan Guaidó as the President of Venezuela since July 2019, aligning with most of the European governments. Mr Paredes talked about the situation is his country, the political turbulence cause by the actions of President Maduro’s regime and his mission in Greece. He argued that Maduro failed in all economic and political sectors during his tenure, and in 2018 he decided to suspend free and fair presidential elections. This was unacceptable and resulted in a big movement led by Guaidó. Paredes thanked the people of Europe for their support to democracy and the rule of law. “Europe has an ethical standard to show to the rest of the world,” he commented.

Ms Chrysa Katsarini
Ms Chrysa Katsarini

The third keynote speaker was Ms Chrysa Katsarini, a young and famous comedian who is very active in issues of human rights. With a humorous sense, Katsarini said that oppression is visible in Greece today. She has experienced threats from far-right and Golden Dawn members who felt frustrated because of her comments in her show. Apart from that, she said a few words about gender issues and especially sexual harassment and rape against women. Her statement is that the only reason of rape is the rapist, and excuses like “provocative dressing” is completely absurd. Nevertheless, she receives aggressive comments under her relevant YouTube video by intolerant viewers.

The Freedom Talks continued with the celebration of “Vasilopita.” The floor was given to Mr Aret Demirci, Projektassistent Regionalbüro SOOE, who represented the Regional Director Dr Rainer Adam. Demirci presented the work of the Regional Office as well as the goals for the Greek Project in the coming years, inviting the participants to stay tuned and work with the FNF for promoting liberalism and freedom in the Greek society. A short greeting was also addressed by the Chairman of Young Liberals Greece, Mr George Marinos Papanikolaou, and the representative of the Deutsche-Griechische Versammlung, Mrs Maria Mantzaflari.

A reception followed with live concert from Alkmini Chatzigianni and her band.

Several agencies and organizations sent representatives to the event: the Deutsche-Griechische Versammlung (DGV), the Deutsche Botschaft in Athen, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the National Research Center, the Young Liberals Greece, KEFIM, the Network of Liberal Councilors, the Center for Volunteer Managers (KEMEL), the Institute for Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship (IMEDA), the Liberal Alliance party and Menalon Trail. The event welcomed also 20 young refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who live in two open structures in Athens, Iris and Estia. The group of refugees was accompanied by 2 teachers/translators, who helped them comprehend what was being discussed on-stage.