Greece: when satire cannot be tolerated


On January 16, Greek blogger Filippos Loizos, head of the satirical Elder Pastitsios Facebook page, was found guilty of “malicious blasphemy and religious insult” and sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for three years.

Loizos created the page mocking a well-known deceased Greek Orthodox monk – Elder Paisios – by intentionally combining his name with a popular Greek dish called “pastitsio,” a pasta dish with bechamel sauce.

His arrest at the end of September 2012, came after Christos Pappas, a member of the now banned neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, asked a parliamentary question calling for the blogger’s arrest on the basis of the country’s anti-blasphemy laws.

Pappas now faces charges of involvement in a criminal organization.

“My pursuit was sort of expected. At the time, I had attracted a lot of attention on social media. The neo-Nazi party saw “a chance” in accusing me of blasphemer, satisfying a very conservative society and inspiring strong national sentiments, “Loizos said. Index said on censorship.

Loizos explained that the court failed to understand his intentions – delivering a scathing rebuke for what he perceived to be the monk’s dangerous nationalism and intolerance.

“The judges were very aggressive and didn’t want to understand my point. They insisted that my intention was to insult because I had not censored any post from visitors considered blasphemous or vulgar. I would never do that. In a democracy, we are all ‘doomed’ to disagree, ”says Loizos.

The reactions in the press and on the Internet after the blogger’s conviction were immediate and fierce. Far-right and Orthodox publishing sites gloated, while Loizos supporters and free speech advocates claimed it was “a blow to free speech.”

On January 20, 2014, Amnesty International expressed serious concerns over this case, while calling on the Greek authorities to “repeal the anachronistic anti-blasphemy legislation”.

The Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR), the oldest human rights organization in Greece, had previously issued a press release, affirming its “unfortunate certainty of an institutional and ideological retreat that will not does not seem to end “.

“Today’s decision shows that freedom of expression, a fundamental pillar of social coherence in a rule of law, is being called into question not only by the enemies of democracy but also by the judicial institutions”, according to the communicated.

Dimitris Christopoulos, assistant professor of state theory and law in the Department of Political Science and History at Panteion University in Athens and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, told Index that “This decision is a message about how justice perceives the politics of coexistence in society. It’s like saying “when you talk about God in a way that we don’t like, you will be punished.” In other words, people can joke about anything they want except religion ”.

Contrary to some claims that judges suffered from social media illiteracy due to their age, Christopoulos told Index on Censorship that they are young and appear to “fully understand the role of social media”.

At the end of September 2012, when Loizos was arrested, Vassilis Sotiropoulos, a lawyer and blogger specializing in Internet law, told Index: – to interpret and freely use the existing legal tools (…) the case of Elder Pastitsios may have provided the first example in Greece of an internet company leaking information to the government in order to identify a person accused of “alleged offenses related to religious satire”. “

However, this is not the first time that cases of religious blasphemy have come to court. In 2012, the controversial play “Corpus Christi” resulted in legal proceedings and public harassment of the director and actors of the play by members of Golden Dawn and Orthodox religious groups.

Legal experts told Index that there were several ongoing blasphemy cases in Greece and that the country should follow the recommendations and reports of the Council of Europe on the abolition of the “offense of blasphemy”. According to these recommendations, freedom of thought and freedom of expression are limited by blasphemy laws.

Loizos said he would appeal the verdict “for reasons of dignity”.

“We should abolish this blasphemy law in order to protect freedom of expression,” he said.

This article was posted on January 23, 2014 on

Latest articles by Christos Syllas (see everything)

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.