OmniaTV, Grassroots Independent Media in Greece

Athens, Greece – Operating voluntarily and organized horizontally, the grassroots independent media collective OmniaTV, has functioned out of necessity since 2011. Striving to bring out truths misrepresented in Greek media and covering under-reported stories, OmniaTV stands out as a viable alternative non-profit media source as for-profit and mainstream media controls the TV and radio in Greece.

In late 2018, Unicorn Riot visited OmniaTV‘s studio while we were in Athens covering events on the tenth anniversary of the police killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, which led to extended riots in Greece and eventually the formation of OmniaTV.

We sat down with Loukas Stamellos, one of the co-founders of OmniaTV and Ypopto Mousi (translated in English as the ‘Suspicious Beard’). We also spoke with Omnia member Alex Litsardakis in Thessaloniki at a screening of ‘Black Snake Killaz: A #NoDAPL Story‘ inside of the occupied Vio.Me. factory.

Sitting across from the historically radical Polytechnic University in the politically active Exarcheia district, OmniaTV’s Athens’ studio space has three desks, a green wall for graphics and a large table for the host and guests during webcasts.

Loukas and Ypopto, after welcoming us and offering coffee and water, told us about Omnia’s volunteer-powered work that spans a decade and has released several documentaries, maintained coverage on numerous topics, and that for the last three plus years now, has produced weekly webcasts on the details of the trial of the Nazi party Golden Dawn.

According to Omnia, the growing need for independent news sources became clear over a decade ago, after the state’s version of the events of the police killing of Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6, 2008 were proven to be false.

Alternative websites like Athens IndyMedia, fueled by activists and community members, were in 2008, and still are for many, the main sources of unfiltered information from the streets.

The truth came and surfaced through media as Indymedia that time which was the only node of anti-reporting, of grassroots reporting that was around in 2008” and this was a stress point, a spark, that pushed others to start organizing independent coverage and media, said Ypopto.

Loukas and Ypopto Mousi working in the OmniaTV studio

After the months’ long uprising in Greece in 2008-2009 after the killing of Alexis, further momentum for grassroots reporting developed when the massive ‘movement of the squares’ protests erupted in Athens.

Pushed by the crushing austerity measures imposed by the Troika and inspired by the Indignado movement in Spain, for months thousands occupied Syntagma Square, across from the Greek Parliament.

Some people that had experience from 2008 and from 2011 got together“, said Ypopto, and OmniaTV was created.

We came up with the name OmniaTV, meaning omnia is Latin for ‘everything’, ‘using all of these means’.” – Loukas Stamellos

Loukas working in the OmniaTV studio

There are no bosses at OmniaTV. There are a dozen members, spread between Athens and Thessaloniki, that self-organize horizontally and have regular meetings to discuss policy, decide what to cover, and how best to distribute their capabilities.

In OmniaTV, horizontalism is crucial. It’s crucial because we respect each other as an identity with his opinion, his view. We want to do whatever we will do with a unanimous vote.” – Alex Litsardakis

They don’t care to be the first ones to cover something, Loukas said, rather they, “weigh the pros and cons of covering each issue or how we can do a better coverage than is already done maybe up by another medium.

It’s difficult in one way but self-organization doesn’t mean non-organization. You need to organize. You need to put some steps. You need to have a procedure.” – Ypopto Mousi

OmniaTV is financed through donations from their readers and viewers. This is a struggle in Greece though at the moment, as Ypopto says “that notion in Greece is not so popular, yet, but we try.

The members do other work for income and have purchased most of their equipment themselves. Yet, Ypopto said that one doesn’t need to “have facilities and technical expertise” nor a lot of resources or a large platform to do the work their doing, it can be done with whatever one has on hand.

Ypopto Mousi working in the OmniaTV studio

Loukas said the huge problem with media in Greece is that it is “owned by a handful of very rich people. And they are playing only two narratives. Either the current government’s or the next government’s.

The ignored facts and “false narratives” that are “based on circumstantial evidence or partial truths“, are of particular concern to Loukas, who said that, “in the end it affects all of us personally.

It affects a large part of the society that has no access to, or no voice, to make their case heard widely. It also comes down to hurting each and every one of us as an individual.” – Loukas

Providing a voice and a narrative apart from the government or corporate news is OmniaTV’s niche and it’s evident in the topics they cover.

The follow-up on cases and topics is lacking in the mainstream media, said Omnia members, and at OmniaTV, they find it necessary to continue bringing context to stories.

Omnia court reporters post to a separate account called The Case on Facebook and Twitter where they provide to the public “an almost real time coverage of what is being said and what is happening in the courtroom” on certain cases, said Loukas.

Alex said their trial and court reporting mostly pertains to social and political cases of people “trying to make change in the world … that are accused because of what they think and what they try to preserve and what they are.

Alex of OmniaTV speaking with Unicorn Riot at the occupied factory of Vio.Me.

Ypopto said some of their coverage has included “certain issues such as far-right, the big mining projects [like] Skouries, police brutality, or in the past we reported a lot about Israel/Palestine and more recent about a murder of [Zac] a gay drag queen in the center of Athens during daylight by two of our fellow citizens. It was a brutal thing.

Ypopto’s path went from corporate to independent. He said he grew up with the notion that success was gained at your job making “six figures.” He was an executive for corporate companies for over 15 years.

After the Squares movement in Greece in 2011, Ypopto said that his old beliefs started to break down when he saw the economic crisis and the “harsh face of society and politics” and he questioned what he was doing in such a “broken system” that he said “destroys you” and disconnects you from society. With OmniaTV he’s changed his life, saying it’s an honor to work on stories that make an impact.

I thought that whatever we learn we need to implement it in ways to improve our lives and our societies.” – Ypopto Mousi

Every Friday night for the last three plus years now, Ypopto Mousi hosts (while Loukas and another member produce) a weekly live webcast with updates on the trial of Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn is a Nazi organization turned political party. In the 2012 Greek elections, they received seven percent of the votes, the third most of all parties, and won 21 seats in the Greek Parliament.

Golden Dawn members participated in large pro-Greek marches and used ‘attack battalions’ across Athens to threaten, beat, and sometimes kill immigrants and anti-fascists.

In September 2013 dozens of Golden Dawn members planned an attack on a small group of anti-fascists in Pireaus in which Golden Dawn member Giorgios Roupakias stabbed and killed white, Greek, anti-fascist rapper Killah P (Pavlos Fyssas).

After the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a massive indictment was handed down with “more than one point five terabytes of material that was confiscated from the defendants.”

Ypopto said that, “All the employees of the party that came up after the elections of 2012 were indicted for administrating and participating in a criminal organization because of all these attacks and attempted murders and murders.

It’s the biggest trial of a Nazi organization since the Nuremberg trials. It goes completely underreported.” – Ypopto Mousi

With 68 defendants, many of whom had positions in the Greek Parliament before the indictments and over 35 cases, the Golden Dawn trial has lasted over three years so far and could last another year or two.

Picture from OmniaTV’s Friday night webcast on the trial of the Nazi party Golden Dawn – a youth can be seen sieg heiling in a video from the trial

Four years ago, Omnia released ‘Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair‘, a feature-length documentary directed by Angélique Kourounis. Kourounis went deep inside the Nazi party and provides an up close view of their activities and beliefs.

For further context on Golden Dawn, read ‘Four Years On: What Greece Can Learn from Golden Dawn Trial‘ by Tassos Morfis and check out the video above of OmniaTV members explaining why it’s important to cover Golden Dawn.

In 2015, OmniaTV released the documentary ‘Astonished Profit: Greedy Profit’ which chronicled the frontline resistance to Canadian gold mining in an ancient forest on the Skouries mountain in the Chalkidiki region in Northern Greece.

There was a large movement against the mining project in the early 2010s, with many actions in the mountain, nearby villages, and Thessaloniki. Trials in late 2018 exonerated 21 people wrongfully accused of setting fire to construction equipment on the mountain.

Loukas said that the trial results were a victory for the local movement and also for them personally, “because we reported on the proceedings, we reported on the evidence, on how things were wrong from the beginning, in this case. And we think we played a small part in that victory.

Fences surround the open pit carved into the ancient Skouries mountain by El Dorado Gold Corporation – Stay tuned in the coming year for a documentary on the resistance to gold mining in the Skouries

Another documentary they produced was the Zoe Mavroudi directed ‘Ruins – Chronicle of an HIV witch-hunt‘ about a shocking case of HIV criminalization by Greek police.

Volunteering their time and efforts, twelve members (as of summer 2019) are dedicating their lives to providing this platform to counter the untruthful narratives in the media landscape. From the way they have handled their reporting, OmniaTV has become a trusted source of of media from the streets to the courts.

I’m doing a kind-of anti-media, or anti-journalism…what we are doing is actually a form of journalism but I am a part of the movement, I am doing that for the movement because I want to prove things about the movement and bring the news of what is really happening.” – Alex

It’s about people – not jobs,” said Alex, who continued that when he works his “normal job,” he’s 9-to-5, but with Omnia, “it’s 24/7 and I’m here because it’s important.

We need reporting and journalism that is actually connecting things, is actually connecting facts, is producing a view of the reality that is more closely related to facts and not just narratives given by certain parts.” – Loukas

On their work at OmniaTV, Loukas calls what they do a “necessity” and hopes for “more groups of people to form projects like this one.

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