People gather outside the Greek public TV ERT headquarters as thousands demonstrated in Thessaloniki on June 12, 2013 following a decision to shut down the state broadcaster.
Greece is witnessing a nationwide general strike in protest at the government's surprise decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT.
Trade unions and all media are participating in the 24-hour work stoppage, which began at midnight on Thursday (2100 GMT Wednesday), and protests are planned later in the day.
The strike comes after the broadcaster's television and radio stations were abruptly taken off air late on June 11. The move, which is part of the Greek government's unpopular austerity measures, left ERT’s nearly 2,700 staff suspended.
Thousands of people gathered outside ERT headquarters in Athens to protest against Athens’ move to close the media outlet.
ERT journalists also refused to leave the broadcaster's headquarters and continued their programs live on the Internet into Wednesday.
However, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras defended the government’s decision on June 12, saying, “We are eliminating a hotbed of opacity and waste. We are protecting the public interest.”
Meanwhile, Greece’s leading union GSEE said in a statement that the lockup of ERT “amounts to a coup d’état.”
Greek Parliament should ratify the executive order to close ERT within three months. However, the order cannot be approved without support from the minority coalition lawmakers.
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the main opposition party, SYRIZA, has condemned the shutdown as “illegal” in an interview on ERT online broadcast.
“Many times the word 'coup' is used as an exaggeration. In this case, it is not an exaggeration,” he said.
The shutdown of ERT has created the semblance “of a political and institutional crisis,” Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos also said.
ERT began broadcasting in 1938, running three domestic TV channels, four national radio stations as well as regional radio stations and an external service, Voice of Greece.