The unbelievable misadventures of a periodical and Nikos Kotzias



by Christoforos Charalambakis*

The internationally renowned Athens Review of Books (ARB), which has to date published 86 issues of its high-quality and aesthetically pleasing magazine, along with a number of books and essays investigating the crisis both in Greece and internationally, at every level, is in danger of closing in the aftermath of a series of court judgements and other conjunctural developments.

Nikos Kotzias, whom a well-known translator characterized as “Gauleiter of Stalinism” in a reader’s letter to the editor that was published in the magazine, filed a civil damages suit for defamation against the Athens Review of Books.

From the very first moment, I lodged a sworn statement as a linguist and lexicographer, in which I substantiated what should be self-evident. The term ceased many decades ago to be interpretable literally and today simply signifies the fanatical supporter of an idea.

It has been used hundreds of times in connection with well-known politicians and other public figures without them ever resorting to justice. The 250,000 euros demanded by the Minister was reduced by the Court of Appeal to 10,000 euros and along with the surcharges amounted to € 22,850 at the time of the Supreme Court’s final decision.

For better or worse, the Honorable Minister won the lawsuit. But with what has been written from time to time, and continues to be written, in the print media and electronic media against him, both he himself and, unfortunately, the justice system, have been discredited. Many are asking themselves: If Mr. Kotzias were not powerful and relentless, a front-ranking minister in the present government, would the decision have been the same?

We therefore expect a politician, a top-ranking minister, who disarmingly confessed that he has written what he has written at the command of others, to make a gesture of generosity, to forgo the sum of money, demeaning for himself, so as not to be accused publicly by newspaper headlines saying that “Nikos Kotzias is strangling the Athens Review of Books.”

The recent freezing of ARB editor Maria Vasilaki’s bank accounts and confiscation of payments to the “Argos” distribution agency is clearly aimed at closing the magazine.

What an irony of fate! A minister of a Left government in the year 2017 is hounding, for no good reason, in my opinion, a publisher who is worthily carrying on her shoulders the heavy burden of a family tradition of democratic struggles.

The heroic Maria Lioudaki, aunt of the publisher, was mercilessly butchered in 1947 by the bravos of Badouvas. Her mother, Hara Lioudaki-Soukatzidi, with a proud history of resistance struggle, survived on in absolute squalor, living through the execution of Napoleon Soukatzidis at the Kaisariani shooting range on May Day 1944.

Τhe periodical of Maria and Manolis Vasilakis, our periodical, does not deserve such an ignominious end. Both of them have struggled for freedom of speech, something that concerns all of us, and for a better legal and political regime, which is precisely why significant figures of the scientific, political, journalistic and artistic world stand by them through their declarations, with the hope that, albeit at the last moment, the indefensible can be avoided.

* Mr. Charalambakis is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Athens.

TO VIMA, Sunday 30th July 2017