Council of Europe rights chief says Greece's ERT closure a blow to democracy, urges reopening

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Europe's commissioner for human rights has strongly condemned the closure of Greece's state ERT broadcaster, and urged the government to repeal the decision.

In a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press Thursday, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks says the move "deals a heavy blow to a fundamental pillar of democracy."

This week's sudden decision touched off a government crisis amid daily protests. All 2,700 ERT jobs will be lost to boost Greece's cost-cutting efforts. The government said a streamlined ERT will reopen by the autumn.

Muiznieks said even a temporary closure reduces media pluralism and curtails freedom of expression.

He said the decision "sends a chilling signal to the media and stirs tensions in a country already suffering from a serious financial and social crisis."