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Greece's 'Robin Hood' journalists raided by riot police after working months for free

Protesters scuffle with policemen as they try to approach ERT's headquarters in Athens on Thursday.John Kolesidis / Reuters

Riot police stormed the headquarters of Greece’s former state broadcaster early Thursday and evicted dozens of journalists who have been working for free since the station was closed by the government almost five months ago.

The country’s coalition shuttered the state-run broadcaster ERT in June because it said it cost too much to run during Greece’s economic crisis.

Dozens of staff have continued to broadcast online since then, with one journalist comparing their operation to "Robin Hood" and claiming "we are the voice of the people."

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, who is a former ERT employee, told Reuters the station was "under illegal occupation," and that police had raided the building to "apply the law and restore legality."

Former ERT staff comfort each other outside the broadcaster's headquarters on Thursday.John Kolesidis / Reuters

At around 4 a.m. local time (9 p.m. ET on Wednesday), police fired teargas into a crowd of pro-ERT protestors gathered outside the headquarters in Athens, Reuters reported.

They evicted dozens of journalists from the building, some of whom refused to leave the yard, and several people were briefly detained.

Officers, in the presence of a prosecutor, checked to see if equipment had been damaged.

One journalist, Nikos Kourovilos, told the BBC he had evaded the police and was hiding in the building.

"They are in the building, they have control, they put everyone out,” he said live on the BBC’s Today radio program. "The good thing is they forgot about me, because I told them I had to take my stuff and I will go."

Kourovilos said he hoped to continue broadcasting independently "because it's for democracy." 

He added: "We feel like we are Robin Hood… We are the voice of the people."

The raid came as inspectors from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union were in Athens reviewing the country's progress in meeting the targets of two multi-billion euro bailouts it has received over the past three years.

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The decision to pull the plug on ERT and fire its 2,600 employees in June prompted the Democratic Left party to quit Greece's coalition government in protest.

The government subsequently launched a new state television channel called Public TV.

On being evicted from the building on Thursday, former ERT employee Adrianna Bili told Reuters: "This is how fascism works, slyly and in darkness. I feel like they have raped me, like they have violated my home, they have violated my life, democracy. They have destroyed everything."

Zoe Konstantopoulou, a senior lawmaker from the leftist opposition Syriza party, added: "The government has reached such a point of delirium that it is staging a coup against itself. Some people will be held accountable before history and future generations."

More protests at the station's headquarters were planned for later on Thursday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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