Journalist Diane Francis accused of 'hate speech' over Greece comments
Some Greeks call Francis' tweets about Greece 'racist'
Many Greeks from across the globe are outraged over recent tweets by National Post editor-at-large and columnist, Diane Francis.
They have taken to social media, labelling her tweets about Greece as "hate speech," "racist," "condescending," "bigotry," and "unacceptable" coming from a journalist at a national newspaper. Some are also demanding a public retraction.
Francis tweeted her comments leading up to and just after Greece's July 5th referendum, in which citizens of the debt-laden country voted to reject austerity conditions of a rescue package from its European creditors.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/grexit?src=hash">#grexit</a> will lead to a military dictatorship in Greece again, maybe the only way to discipline and morality <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/euro?src=hash">#euro</a>—@dianefrancis1
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Greece?src=hash">#Greece</a> changed nothing, still a deadbeat and they're partying on the street celebrating their stupidity—@dianefrancis1
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Greeks?src=hash">#Greeks</a> act like rebellious and spoiled kids who hate their parents—@dianefrancis1
People of Greek heritage quickly took to social media to protest Francis' comments.
Greek Cypriot @okkas tweeted in response, "what is wrong with you? Your so racist!" Georgia B @Georgia_B92 responded, "look what this woman is saying about our country! Hateful!" And Mz Billie @dangerousmj01 wrote, "I'm of Greek background from Australia and I believe you owe all of us Greeks an apology for your words."
Konstantine Argirakis from Markham, Ont. also tweeted his thoughts, writing, "Your ignorant comments are unacceptable by someone in your position."
A journalist calling Greeks "undisciplined and immoral, deadbeats, celebrating their stupidity, it's just beyond the pale," said Argirakis in an interview with CBC News.
Ever since Greece spiraled into a debt crisis, it has been painted by some critics as a country of lazy tax evaders who brought their own demise.
But Argirakis says when someone in the media perpetuates such stereotypes, "it crosses the line."
Francis responds to criticism
Francis countered in an email to CBC News, writing that her comments "were based on fair comment given the facts: Greece's succession of governments have failed to address its dire debt situation."
She added, "It is irrational, local referendum or not, to expect that a country can live beyond its means and expect other taxpayers to pay for it."
She also stated that many European Union members share this opinion.
Alethea Avramis doesn't share this viewpoint and calls Francis' tweets "racist." Avramis lives in Los Angeles and is also a Greek citizen. She says if a journalist made similar comments about African-Americans in the United States, "that person would lose their job."
She also points to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who recently faced media scrutiny and major repercussions after making disparaging comments about Mexicans.
"It's shocking there hasn't been more of an outcry considering [Francis is] a journalist and she's kind of a public figure," says Avramis.
While Francis stands by what she tweeted about Greece, she publicly objected to Trump's comments. The same day she tweeted that a Greek military dictatorship may be "the only way to discipline and morality" she also wrote, "Donald Trump: YOU'RE FIRED!!! for derogatory comments about Mexicans."
Anger over 'military dictatorship' tweet
It was the military dictatorship comment that "took the cake" for Vancouver lawyer, Nikolaos Galanopoulos. He is also of Greek heritage.
On Friday, Galanopoulos emailed Francis a letter of complaint and asked for a public retraction. Commenting on Francis' tweet, he wrote, "What you are saying is that Greeks are deserving of the horror of tyranny and not the dignity of democracy."
He went on to tell her that Greece's dictatorship during the Second World War resulted in great suffering "including the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of Greeks and the extermination of nearly the entire Jewish population of the country."
He concluded that her tweet "crosses the line of decency and professionalism and amounts to nothing more than bigotry and hate speech."
Galanopoulos also informed Francis that, without a public retraction, he would pursue legal action.
The corporate and securities lawyer told CBC News in an email that he couldn't comment on specifics. But he stated, "Generally speaking, there is a history in Canada of legal action being taken on the basis of defamatory comments and hate propaganda directed towards identifiable groups."
Diane Francis would not comment on Galanopoulos' letter. But she suggested to CBC News that the outrage expressed over her tweets was misdirected.
"People shoot the messenger when their anger would be better aimed at pummeling a Greek leadership that has pushed the country to the wall again and again," she said.
The National Post told CBC News in an email that Francis is free to express her own opinions because she is a freelance columnist who carries the title editor-at-large due to her long association with the newspaper.
"She's a columnist with strong opinions," said editor-in-chief, Anne Marie Owens.