Greek TV state cut out a gay kiss from the British period drama Downton Abbey earlier this week. For its part, the state-run NET channel said that because of the time (10:05 pm local time) the episode was aired, parental guidance rules required the editing out of footage of a kiss between two men. NET also disputed the charge of censorship.
A statement from the country’s opposition party, SYRIZA, pointed out that the removal of the kiss was not an isolated incident but part of a rise in hate crimes and right-wing extremism:
As incredible as it may seem for a democratic country in the 21st century, officials of the NET television channel censored the scene of a kiss between men from the TV drama Downton Abbey.
This is of course an obvious case of censorship, an extreme act of homophobia and discrimination which unfortunately, after what has been happening recently, we cannot characterize as unprecedented.
Greeks took to Twitter to raise the issue of NET censorship. Dimitris Papadimoulis, a SYRIZA politician, raised the point of whether the right-wing Golden Dawn party or religious authorities had pressured NET to omit the footage: “NET ‘cut’ a gay kiss on the premiere of a top TV series. Who decided this censorship? (Bishop) Seraphim of Piraeus and GD?”
Last week, members of the Golden Dawn were among those demonstrating outside a theater in Athens where an American play portraying Jesus and his apostles as gay was to be performed. As Reuters notes, the demonstrators — including a woman making a Nazi salute — clashed with police and the play has been postponed. TV footage also showed black-robed priests ripping up flyers for the play.
The Golden Dawn, whose logo includes a swastika-like symbol, has gained support — 30 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament after elections in June — as the country’s economic crisis has dragged on and on. Greece’s economy has been in a recession for five years and a quarter of Greeks, and over half of those in their 20s, are now unemployed. The Daily Mail reports that about a quarter of Greeks under 25 support the Golden Dawn, which has gone out of its way to hand out free food only to Greeks in need and blamed the country’s woes on immigrants. Some members of the Golden Dawn have been accused of physically assaulting immigrants.
Indeed, a teacher at an Athens high school was recently investigated for threatened foreign students by saying that he would call on the Golden Dawn, Greek daily Ta Nea reports. The teacher has apologized and, according to another daily, Kathimerini, the school (which has 150 students from 19 different countries) is now functioning “smoothly and peacefully.”
But this incident, along with the NET’s omission of the kiss between the two male characters on Downton Abbey, are troubling signs of right-wing attitudes and a lack of tolerance for diversity and immigrants in Greek society. For millennia, the country has been at the crossroads of Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa: The 21st century is no time for Greece to succumb to acts of hate and xenophobia.
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