Venus Still Causing a Stir

Back in February of 2010, the German news magazine Focus published a cover critical of the way Greece was occupying its place in the European Union and there was a big brouhaha back then … I thought I had posted about it here, but it might have been on Twitter or Facebook (I might have feared rc being blocked at a school because of this). In any event, this is the cover I’m referring to (if it disappears, follow the Kathimerini and/or Hollywood Reporter links that follow; the url is kind of weird):

via Focus

… and here’s the latest, via eKathimerini:

An Athens court on Tuesday postponed until December 9 the libel trial of 13 journalists employed by the German magazine Focus in connection with a front page of the publication from February 2010 depicting a statue of the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture under the title “Cheats in the Euro family,” in reference to Greece.

Focus has denied the charges, which were brought after a group of Greek lawyers filed a complaint. The magazine has claimed that the front-page image of the statue and the text of the article, with its criticism of Greek profligacy, might have been upsetting to some but was not punishable offense.

Hollywood Reporter glosses the legal issues with a bit of ClassCon, inter alia:

[…] Americans have become accustomed to certain standards for bringing defamation claims. Lawsuits have been constrained by free speech outlined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Not all countries agree with the U.S. standard, however. Greece is one territory where there’s criminal liability for insulting someone, where you can defame a corporation, where disparaging the memory of a deceased individual carries a penalty of six months in prison, and not last nor least, individuals have to be careful about not disparaging the honor of national symbols and heads of a foreign state.

According to local reports, the charges against the journalists in this Venus de Milo case carry up to two years in jail as a penalty, though it’s not clear how the country intends to enforce a judgment. None of the journalists showed up at the most recent hearing. If they do, Greek law allows journalists to pursue a defense that they were serving the public interest.

We’d like to report that the defamation laws derive from ancient Greece, but according to our best research, they seem more attributable to the Romans, specifically from edicts made by the Praetors around 130 A.D. Back then, it was illegal to shout at someone of good morals in the public square, use obscene language, and make some questionable declarations of a woman’s chastity.

… we should note that Focus did something similar a few months after (May 2010):

via Greek Reporter

Greek Reporter seems to have been the only publication that noticed: “Focus” Insults Greeks, Once Again

Someone has a little too much time on their hands … (how’s that for an ambiguous closing line?)

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