We wish to protest in the strongest terms the action taken by Nikos Kotzias, Foreign Minister of Greece, against the publisher of the Athens Review of Books (ARB), resulting in the freezing of the bank accounts of its publisher and the impounding of the proceeds of the sales from its distribution company. The purpose of this unconscionable and vindictive action by the Foreign Minister is to cause the financial ruin of the ARB, forcing it to cease publication. Beyond the threatened destruction of an important publication, this development deals a severe blow to the right of free speech in Greece and to the uninhibited dissemination of knowledge and exchange of ideas, which are essential prerequisites of an open and democratic society.
The ARB is one of Greece’s most stimulating forums of intellectual discourse, especially in the fields of literature, history, culture and the arts. In its attractive monthly issues the works of major Greek and foreign authors are discussed by prominent scholars and intellectuals with the sophistication and style one finds in much older and prestigious journals such as the New York Review of Books, with which the ARB is collaborating since 2010. Thus the ARB has earned a rare place of distinction in the world market of intellectual dialogue.
The facts of the case against the ARB are well known. During the height of the Cold War Nikos Kotzias, a prominent communist activist and theorist, published various books and articles extolling the virtues of Soviet-style totalitarian regimes, and particularly that of East Germany. Several years ago the ARB printed a letter from a reader who accused Dr. Kotzias of having been a propagandist of the Greek communist party and an enthusiastic defender of Stalinism. Dr. Kotzias sued the ARB for libel and despite the overwhelming and convincing evidence presented by the defense, the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff and imposed on the ARB and its publisher a heavy compensation. On the basis of those verdicts the ARB bank accounts have been frozen. The case will end up before the European Court of Human Rights.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rapid dismantling of communist regimes across Eastern Europe, ideologically-driven paeans extolling the virtues of totalitarian communism such as those published by Dr. Kotzias have been discredited. Whether he wrote out of conviction or to curry favor with his party’s leaders, he cannot now disown his published work or seek to silence its critics. Having exercised his right to promote his perceptions and beliefs he cannot now deny others their right to characterize his publications as Stalinist propaganda.
The ARB is a valuable cultural forum that must be defended against political influence of any kind.
Lars Baerentzen, Department of Modern Greek, University of Copenhagen, retired
Richard Clogg, Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford
Kevin Featherstone, Eleftherios Venizelos Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Professor of European Studies, London School of Economics
John O. Iatrides, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Southern Connecticut State University
James E. Miller, Chair, European Studies, Foreign Service Institute, retired
Dimitris Papadimitriou, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester.