ATHENS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - A plan by Greece to reduce its number of TV stations suffered setbacks on Wednesday after a court said it would examine if the move was legal, and apparently hacked emails detailing a judge’s private life were leaked.
The Council of State, a 30-bench panel of judges that is the country’s top administrative court, said late on Tuesday it would review whether the process followed by authorities to issue new television broadcasting licences was constitutional after media companies complained.
The cash-strapped leftist government unexpectedly raised 246 million euros ($270 million) from last month’s auction of four permits, down from the current eight, after authorities concluded four was the number of broadcasters that could stay viable based on advertising industry estimates.
Media workers fearing job cuts reacted angrily, and opposition parties portrayed the cut as an attempt to gag critics. The political affiliation of at least two of the new broadcasters is unclear.
As a ruling was awaited on whether the case was admissible at the Council of State, Greek media said one member of the court was potentially vulnerable to outside influence after emails from him suggesting an affair with a married woman were hacked.
Avgi, a newspaper run by the ruling Syriza party, named the judge. Another media outlet that reported the story did not.
The judiciary criticised the intrusion. “The privacy of a judge of recognised standing has been violated, abused and offered as fodder to a lurking gutter press and that element of public opinion moulded by it,” the Society of Judges and Prosecutors said in a statement.
The opposition New Democracy party accused the government of trying to influence the judicial process, but Syriza officials distanced themselves from the leak.
“In my view, it is unethical to link any events with the personal life of anyone,” said Nikos Pappas, the minister of state who is overseeing the auction process, told Greek TV.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected on promises to take on the country’s oligarchs, many of who run TV stations, has said the auction process would help bring order to a sector in debt and generally discredited due to political links.
$1 = 0.9118 euros Reporting By Michele Kambas