Our official answer to the Spiegel magazine

Dear editors,

On August 13 you published an article entitled ’’People Power: Young Greeks Team Up to Combat Crisis’’ in which we are presented as four citizens that live in Greece and develop social initiatives and projects. Although we wholeheartedly support the dissemination of positive news from Greece and your interest in our work honors us as personalities, it offends us as Greeks and as European citizens, since it mentions a series of incorrect and untrue facts which we believe misinform the public. Concretely, one finds in quotation marks phrases that we never mentioned, while sentences have been paraphrased and their essence and spirit significantly altered so as to lead to opinions and stereotypes offensive to Greek citizens and dangerous for our country’s social cohesion.

Skillful generalizations about an entire society and the exclusion of the voice of civil society may constitute a common tactic of journalists and politicians, but that is exactly what we try to confront through our social activity.

Your article has been already republished by other media, intensifying the damage caused beyond any precept of professionalism and ethics. We hereby request the correction of the article in question based on the comments below, by September 8th 2013. On the contrary, we reserve the legal rights to disseminate our correspondence and related articles to national and international media.

It is worth wondering whether this article was published to present what “young Greeks at a time of crisis” replied to the questions posed by the German journalist in question, or in order to reproduce the opinions of Spiegel’s editors. Why reproduce stereotypes that keep our two nations apart, at a time where as European citizens we ought to recognize the common challenges ahead of us and strengthen the voice and participation of civil society?

Considering the ecumenical principle and nature of journalism as a sector that researches, serves and disseminates the Truth, we look forward to your positive reply to this request.

We thank you in advance for your collaboration and remain at your disposal for any further information you may need.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Karatza

Andreas Roumeliotis

Giorgos Vichas

Stephania Xydia

Please find below our detailed notes to the relevant quotes of the article:

Α) The statements below were never mentioned directly nor implied by the interviewees. On the contrary, they describe facts that are incorrect or opinions that do not express us.

 1.    “There is a question that Mary Karantza has had on her mind for some time, and she’s asking it again on this August afternoon. But this time she’s asking it out loud. The question is: What makes Greece different from the rest of Europe? Why do the Greeks tick differently from the Germans? Why do they blithely live beyond their means for years, denying their government the taxes they owe, and tossing their garbage into large container without separating out recyclables even though they know that it’s taken to illegal garbage dumps?

”(…) isn’t asking these questions because she wants to list unfriendly clichés about the Greeks. On the contrary, says Karantza, she does so because it’s time to get rid of these clichés”
Comment: These questions are a product of the editor’s imagination

 2.    “The junkies in the neighborhood recently started injecting a cocktail laced with battery acid, says Karantza. It makes them unpredictable”

  1. Comment: The interviewee is not even aware of this information. On the contrary she stressed that despite the junkies, her neighborhood is safe.

 

 3.    “It isn’t necessarily a question of mentalities, says Karantza. “If a Greek lives in Denmark, he eventually behaves like a Dane, paying taxes and recycling. A German living on the Peloponnese, on the other hand, stops paying his water bill — because he only receives it sporadically and because no one asks about it.”

Comment: These examples were never mentioned.

 4.    “For decades, all that mattered to us was a BMW outside the door and a Miele washing machine in the bathroom, says Andreas Roumeliotis”

Comment: Why does the editor write about 2 German brands that were never mentioned by the interviewee?

5.    “The mayor sent the two women a thank-you card”
Comment: The mayor supported the project but never sent a thank-you card.

 6.    “Giorgos Vichas, the cardiologist, has already agreed to be part of it”

Comment: why is the interviewee presented to agree on something he is not aware of and was never asked about?

 

Β) The statements below contain information that was mentioned by the interviewees but has been significantly altered to the point of completely distorting their meaning.

 1.    “The state was the enemy” (article’s subtitle)

On the contrary what was mentioned is:

”the closed networks of power (political and financial) are the enemy’’

2.    “The rules of the game in a given country determine the way people behave in a society, says Karantza. And for most Greeks, the state was primarily an enemy for a long time. The community was sabotaged wherever possible. It began with politicians unscrupulously lining their pockets and ended with taxi drivers, and some of the problems still exist today. And no one cared

On the contrary what was mentioned is:

’’The rules of the game in a country define the way people behave within a society. For most Greeks the enemy was and still is the political system and the closed networks of power that control the country’s political and financial life, even the judiciary system. Bribing begins from the political parties themselves who remain untouchable. Creative communities are constantly being sabotaged.’’

What was mentioned with regards to taxi drivers was: ’’An innovative Greek application named taxibeat proved that through an open and participatory process an entire community – that of taxi drivers in this case – started instantaneously to give their best to their people using their services’’

 3.    It was the old rules of the game that led Greece into the crisis. The political class may have set the rules, but almost everyone adhered to them. Now the game is over, and there is no money left for fakelaki and rousfeti, corruption and nepotism, two basic principles of Greek political life until now.

What was mentioned by Mary Karatza is:

’’Corruption and nepotism characterize our country’s political life. This has not changed to date and will never change if we the citizens do not stand up for transparency in politics and political parties and a change of our election system’’

 4.    It is primarily younger people who want change and are working hard to get it. Older Greeks never learned how to do this. They became accustomed to living in a system in which connections to influential people were more important than performance. For a long time, the most fervent wish many parents throughout Greece had for their children was that they land a job in the public sector.

 

What was mentioned by Mary Karatza instead is:

’’Political and party leaders got unfortunately used to operate in a system which values more one’s connections of influence than the actual work produced. In Greece, elected politicians have for years positioned their children in government, thus creating a nepotistic state. Mass media have played an important role in this.’’

5.    While the crisis may not have changed the parents much, it has clearly changed their children.”Many are still searching for a savior in politics, someone who fill feed them,” says Karantza

 

What was mentioned by Mary Karatza instead is:

“Many are still searching for saviors in politics, but the truth is only we will save ourselves”

 6.    The Greeks, says Xydia, have never learned to participate in and shape public life.”The government treated us like underage children, and most people were happy about it.”

What was mentioned by Stephania Xydia instead is:

“Through our experience we have discovered that Greeks have the will and the ability to participate in public life, yet they can’t. Greek citizens remain excluded by patronizing governments and institutions that treat us like fools. And no one can be happy about that.’’

 

C) The statements below include incorrect information that misinforms the public

 1.    The article refers to the name Mary Karantza 

The correct name is Mary Karatza (without the letter n)

 2.    “She and Stephania Xydia, 26, founded a non-governmental organization called “Imagine the City.” It is both a coordination office for citizens’ initiatives and a reeducation program of sorts, with the aim of improving the management of cities and villages”

The correct information is:

“Mary Karatza and Stephania Xydia have founded a non-profit organization called PlaceIdentity.GR  Clusters which aims at boosting Citizen’s Participation in Greece and promoting elements of Greece’s place identity such as Democracy and Political Philosophy. Projects that have been developed include Imagine The City, IDEA|TOPOS, Syn-oikia, Politeia 2.0’’

3.    “She returned to Athens in 2011, after giving up her job as a management consultant in London. Her parents weren’t happy about that”

The correct information is:

’’She returned to Athens in 2011, after completing her studies in Cultural Policy and Management in London. Her parents were puzzled at first, but now support her decision.’’

4.     Now she and Karantza are keeping local governments throughout Greece on their toes. With the help of Imagine the City, Greeks can exchange information more easily, including reports and statistics. As a result, it’s no longer as easy for mayors to build new town halls or village squares that no one needs — except the local officials who award the construction contracts to their friends

The correct information is this:

’’Now, Xydia and Karatza are supporting local teams of active citizens to organize ImagineTheCity exhibitions in their cities. Through these exhibitions they open the dialogue between citizens and professionals in the fields of architecture and design, about each city’s public regeneration works. The aimed result is the restriction of works unwanted by citizens on one hand, and the limitation of construction contracts assigned to friends of political officials on the other.’’

5.     Mary Karantza and Stephania Xydia, the two women behind Imagine the City, used their network to install 200 lamps on an unlit street in downtown Athens last winter. People came from all over the city to help, each bringing a lampshade. The campaign attracted so much attention that Coca-Cola offered to be its sponsor.

The correct information is:

’’The two women participated in the coordination of the project Syn-oikia in which a network of active citizens and creative teams installed 200 lamps on an unlit street in downtown Athens last winter. People came all over the city to help, each bringing a lampshade. The project was sponsored by Coca-Cola and supported by the City of Athens’’

6.    Until recently, Karantza shared her office with two fashion designers

The correct information is:

“Until recently, Mary Karatza had two neighbors, fashion designers.’’

7.    Andreas Roumeliotis, a former journalist (…)now lives in Crete 

The correct information is this:

’’Andreas Roumeliotis is an active journalist, currently doing a reportage in Crete’’

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