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Press catering to migrants in Greece avoid taking sides on elections September 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV, Politics.

Many newspapers cater to Greece’s large population of migrants, from Omonia in Russian and Gazeta e Athines in Albanian, to the Times of Athens in Chinese and Al Dafatan in Arabic. All offer background information on tomorrow’s National elections.

Newspapers for migrants play an intrinsic part in the lives of those who have come to Greece to find work, and possibly to attain Greek citizenship and the right to vote. How are the newspapers for migrants covering the 2007 elections, and how do they see the major parties?

According to a poll in the Russian-language weekly Omonia, founded in 1993, one in 10 say they will vote for Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), led by Giorgos Karatzaferis. “This is unprecedented,” says editor Inga Abkarova, who is of Georgian origin. “You know, for our people it’s important to hear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is better than US President George W. Bush.” In the same poll, 80 percent said they would vote for PASOK and 10 percent for New Democracy.

Out of respect for its readers’ views, however, Omonia, which has a circulation of 18,000 throughout Greece, makes no comment. The paper’s 600,000 readers are Greeks from the Black Sea, Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians and other Russian-speakers from the former Soviet Union. “Officially there are 18,000 Black Sea Greeks,” explained Abkarova. “It is a significant number, so at election time the parties visit us regularly.”

How will the Black Sea Greeks vote? According to the main story in Omonia, it will be whoever brings back 60,000-euro housing loans and simplifies the process of acquiring Greek citizenship.

In the office next door, journalist Ira Lonto of the Albanian newspaper Gazeta e Athines, which has been published since 1998 in Greece and Albania, is closing the front page. “Elections, everything about the vote” and “Automobile license plates being returned” are the headlines.

Of the 1,269 migrants who have been granted Greek citizenship this year, the 548 who managed to be sworn in by July 30, 2007, will vote for the first time in a Greek election. Most of them are Greeks from Albania. Gazeta does not take sides and its articles focus on general information and directions for the elections. With a circulation of 19,000, the newspaper reaches 700,000 readers. “The real number is at least a million,” said Lonto.

The Bulgarian paper Atinksi Vesti (Athenian News), established in 2000, does draw some conclusions, although its editor, Nelli Karangiova, says that only 1,000 of the estimated 200,000 Bulgarians in Greece actually vote. “The government that is elected will probably be weak and we will have elections again in two-and-a-half years,” she commented. “On Sunday, Greeks have to decide who will govern them for the next four years” is the headline. What about the Bulgarians? “As citizens of the European Union, we will vote in the Municipal elections.”

In Metaxourgeio, home to many Chinese, publisher Robin Wang is proofreading the front page of the paper that will come out the day after the elections. Photographs of the leaders of the two major parties are already in place, but the title is not done yet. The Times of Athens, the only Chinese newspaper in Greece, is a weekly with a circulation of 2,500, and it aims to be the voice of the 20,000 Chinese migrants who live in Athens. Fewer than 10 Chinese have acquired Greek citizenship and will be entitled to vote on Sunday.

But, said Wang, “if the Chinese voted, they would not vote for PASOK because during the 20 years that PASOK was in power, migrants were not first-class citizens. By contrast, in the past three years, new favorable measures were instituted for the establishment and tax regime of migrants’ businesses, and for the import of Chinese products.”

“The catastrophic fires helped the small parties and burnt the fingers of the big parties,” says the Sashati Mansur, editor of the Arabic-language Al Dafatan, explaining the headlines. The paper is aimed mainly at Greek citizens who come from Arab countries and who vote here. Mansur estimates there are 3,000-4,000 Arab voters. “The newspaper condemns the mistakes related to the fires but does not take a stand on the elections. The parties play the games,” he said. “The Arabic-language newspapers in Greece don’t put governments in or out of power.”

News from home is what interests Talat Jafri, publisher of the Pakistani paper Awaz (Voice), and not the scandal of the structured bonds, he told us as he delivered his paper by hand in Anaxagora Street. Awaz, which has acquired an official readership of 50,000 (unofficially 70,000) since it first came out in 1999, informs Pakistanis what is happening in their homeland. It will not run an article about the Greek elections.

“In my country, the government is in danger of falling. President Pervez Musharraf is ready to declare a state of emergency, and you talk to me about the Greek elections? In Pakistan we are burning, do you understand? Burning.” “We’ve already been burnt, Mr Jafri,” interpolates a Greek passerby.

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