Weary of corruption, Greece turns to the internet

16/11/2012

Two Greek-language websites aim to pinpoint the methods, locations and sectors comprising bribery in the country.

By H.K. Tzanis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 16/11/12

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Two recently launched Greek-language websites aim to fight corruption by giving citizens a voice. [AFP]

The fight against corruption in recession-battered Greece has moved squarely onto the internet, following the October debut of two grassroots efforts to anonymously "name and shame" disreputable practices and sectors.

Both initiatives -- www.edosafakelaki.org and www.teleiakaipavla.gr -- have recorded hundreds of complaints and personal stories of corruption, primarily bribery to clinch anything from health care to a reduced tax fine or a driver's license.

"Edosa fakelaki" in Greek means "I gave an envelope," a metaphor for "I gave a bribe."

"Teleia kai Pavla" means "an end, once and for all," related to eliminating corruption.

"Our idea was to collect data, to present it, to distribute it and to brief journalists and political parties, so they can ask, 'What's going on here? What's going on at this hospital, or at this tax bureau?'," Krystallia Drystella, spokesperson for teleiakaipavla.gr, told SETimes.

The initiative is led by IT analyst and author Diomides Spinellis.

Edosafakelaki.org is the brainchild of New York City-based Kristina Tremonti, a Yale University graduate inspired to create a website after a personal encounter with "fakelaki."

Tremonti said it was her 93-year-old grandfather's plight in 2010 at a pair of Peloponnese hospitals and her stumbling upon a well-regarded webpage devoted to rooting out corruption in India that spawned "I gave a Fakelaki."

"My pappou had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer -- he's still alive today, by the way -- and one night he experienced massive bleeding, so we took him to the hospital in Kalamata, but no one [from the staff] appeared to be paying attention," Tremonti said. "They were saying things like, 'there's no room, there's no urologist.' We ended up getting shipped to Sparta, and there they ignored us, too. Then a lady, attending another patient, asked us: 'Aren't you going to give the physician something?'"

Tremonti told SETimes that an immediate and successful operation followed after roughly 300 euros were inconspicuously transferred to a physician.

Drystella said teleiakapavla.gr aims to anonymously register negative experiences, "but at the same time to record positive experiences, too. For instance, we have a first-place [showing] for complaints against a hospital, but we also have a first-place [showing] for another hospital. We want both social pressure but also solidarity. No names are printed."

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As of early November, the two sites combined recorded 133,000 unique visitors and more than 1,000 posted stories claiming more than 4 million euros in demanded bribes. Nearly 60 percent of the stories posted on Tremonti's site deal with public hospitals, while other posts involved drivers' license tests and town planning licenses.

"We are starting to see a resistance and an increasingly active society, because up until now it was tolerant [of such corruption]," Costas Bakouris, the chairman for Transparency International in Greece, said recently.

According to Transparency International's 2011 study in Greece, the figures for passive bribery in one form or another decreased, which is blamed on the economic crisis.

Tremonti said her goal is to "bridge the gap by soliciting legal help .... Beyond data, if the government wants change they can reach out and we can work together. We are basically creating the data for them, telling them where the culprits are; where, when and how much. This initiative aims to boost awareness and brief people on their rights; I'd like to think that it's a collective awakening."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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