Big scandals and little scandals

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Two things have been proven by the Zachopoulos affair. First is the immunity of Greeks to scandals, which have been classified into those that are huge and those that are no big deal. The manner in which funds are managed at the Ministry of Culture - a scandal shared by both major parties - falls into the latter category. The fact that ministry chiefs distribute state funds as they see fit no longer raises an eyebrow. We have become so accustomed to the squandering of public funds that we simply ignore an amount of up to 1 million euros being handed over to unknown "cultural" bodies. Many say that nothing big has come out of the Zachopoulos affair, but if you were to add up all the small amounts of money that have been squandered or misappropriated, it would not be a negligible sum.

The second major scandal that emerged from the Zachopoulos affair involves the shady dealings between government officials and the media, publishers and journalists. If we choose not to believe the head of the premier's press office Yiannis Andrianos - who claims that the person who gave him the notorious DVD was a publisher who did so out of the goodness of his heart - then we must ask what was promised in exchange. We should also ask how many shady deals have never been brought to light by a suicide attempt.

If - as skeptical taxpaying citizens - we choose not to believe that state company advertising is allocated randomly, then we can only wonder who is being bought and with what when we look at the ludicrously disproportionate lists of where advertising goes.

If we also choose not to believe that contracts signed with the state are protected by privacy laws, then we must also wonder how many journalists have been or are on the public sector's payroll, under what agreement and why this is such a well-guarded secret.

We do not know if the above impinges on the penal code, but there is a general feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg, a glimpse at a snarl of entangled relationships between government and media. This is a whopping political scandal, but, sadly, also a scandal for the media sector. So, people accuse journalists of being on the take and the unions turn a blind eye. And the entire sector will ultimately pay the price.

Transparency is the only solution -everywhere and at every level. Publishing companies should not be allowed to spend 2 percent of their net profits without presenting receipts, contracts between journalists and the public sector should not be a state secret, and the allocation of state advertising should be subject to scrutiny. But above all, the government and the journalists' union must understand that there is a code of ethics that must be enforced.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 19/02/2008