Our report on the EU Fact Check focuses on a news item which was published on Friday, March 29, 2019, on the website of the newspaper “Avgi”. More specifically, the news item was titled “The deadline for submitting applications to participate in the European elections for Greek citizens who live in another EU country expires today”. The item was chosen due to its importance for the Greek voters who live in other EU countries and the forthcoming European elections.
The publication of “Avgi”- which can be found here: http://www.avgi.gr/article/10813/9721606/legei-semera-e-prothesmia-ypobole-aiteseon-ellenon-katoikon-ee-gia-symmetoche-stis-euroekloges- initially states: ” Greeks citizens who have their residence in another EU member state can submit their application until today Thursday in order to vote at the upcoming European elections in the cities of the EU member state where they reside permanently or happen to be on the day of the vote”. However, the publication time and date of the news item appear as follows: Publication: Friday, March 29, 2019, 08:34. The non-matching of the two dates therefore makes the publication problematic. When did the deadline expire, on Thursday or on Friday?
The news item refers to the Ministry of Interior, which describes in detail the procedure the interested voters need to follow in order to submit their application. More specifically, a link is given, which refers to the website of the Ministry, where one could complete the application.
After researching (Wednesday, April 10, 2019) the specific news item on other news websites on the Internet, we find the following:
1. Over 20 websites (avgi.gr, Olympia.gr, businessnews.gr, altsantiri.gr, pentapostagma.gr, etc.) published the news item regarding the “deadline for submitting applications to participate in the European elections for Greek citizens who live in another EU country” with almost the same content and a similar title, on Friday, March 29, 2019. Neither the name of a journalist nor a relative source appear on the news items.
2. However, at least 15 sites (amna.gr, kathimerini.gr, e-synews.gr, iefimerida.gr, enikos.gr, etc.) published on Friday, March 29, 2019, the news item with a completely different title and content. According to the specific sites, the applications were prolonged until April 5, 2019. None of the specific sites, except for the APE-MPE, quotes the name of the journalist or a relevant source. In particular, the publication of the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, APE-MPE stated: the deadline for registering in the special electoral lists in order to vote in the European elections for Greek citizens who live in another EU country is extended until 5 April 2019. Applications can be submitted to the Ministry of Interior website (www.ypes.gr) and to the relevant Greek ambassadors and consular authorities in the member states of the European Union. Greek EU residents will vote in polling stations to be set up in some cities in their country of residence. It is noted that especially for Greek voters residing in the United Kingdom, the deadline has already been extended until 10 April (https://www.amna.gr/home/article/347466/Paratasi-stis-aitiseis-Ellinon-katoikon-tis-EE-gia-summetochi-stis-euroekloges).
3. It is worth noting that only one website, namely topontiki.gr, has published twice the news item with a different title and content (expiration and extension of the deadline for submitting statements). However, it is not obvious which news item preceded the other.
Finally, following the publication of the two different news items, a research was carried out on Wednesday (April 10th, 2019) on the website of the Ministry of Interior, aiming at finding the press release on the expiration or the extension of the date for the submission of relevant applications. A press release was indeed found, which was entitled “Extending the date for the submission of applications for the 2019 European Elections by Greek EU residents” and which was published on Friday, March 29th 2019 (http://www.ypes.gr/el/MediaCenter/Minister/PressReleases/?id=6066fd72-8b2d-4b2f-9658-ace2e3d96d25&fbclid=IwAR1u57UMaTnpxAYwxrnmBlbCelV5xL_HGypyMKreVBV0iGQVVpJb2He2cx8).
It is worth mentioning that a search was conducted in order to locate an equivalent earlier press release (January 2019 research) regarding the deadline for the submission of applications by Greek EU residents for participation in the European elections, but without any result.
In a further research carried out on the website of the Ministry of Interior, and in particular on the tabulations: Elections, Elections for the European Parliament, Interested Greek residents abroad, it was found out that the Ministry of Interior had initially ruled that the deadline for the submission of the applications was March 29, 2019. However, the publication date of the specific publication does not appear. (http://www.ypes.gr/el/Elections/ElectionsEuropeanParliament/ElectionsforEuropeanParliament/InterstGreeksAbroad/)
Therefore, the news item from the website of the newspaper “Aygi” proved to be partially- mostly true, following our verification procedure. The news item was based on the original date set by the Interior Ministry. However, it became apparent that no further investigative research was carried out on the day of the deadline for a possible date change or extension. This news item, coupled with the incorrect mention of the expiration date (“Today Thursday is the last day…”), is misleading as regards the timing of the submission of applications by Greek voters living in EU countries. More specifically, it leads the voters to the wrong conclusions, due to the wrong time frame. Finally, it is worth noting that the process followed for recovering the volume of articles audited and recovering data from the source was not difficult.
Ioanna Kostopoulou, Anthi Balliou, School of Journalism & MC, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, GR