A report in last Saturday’s edition of The Age on the capture of Tony Mokbel in Greece was peppered with stereotypes against Greek people, specifically the Athens Police. The report, entitled How Mokbel’s Greek drama played out, speculated that the only reason Greek police were responsive with the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police in the search for Tony Mokbel was because the police officer from Australia has in-laws from the same village as the Anti-Drug Lieutenant in Greece.
Journalist John Silvester, better known for his indulgent narrative in crime reporting in The Age, began with a description of the Greek police officer as a chain smoker, and it didn’t stop there.
He described the Greek police as uncommunicative, with little or no interest in solving an Australian crime. He in fact described the Greek police as “bored” with “enough local crime to worry about”.
But only when Victoria’s Detective Sergeant Jim Coghlan used his “previously hidden skill”, and asked the Greek police how their family was in Greek, did the police stand upright and pay attention. However, Detective Sergeant Coghlan knew he had to do more and as Silvester described “like Nana Mouskouri on steroids”, he started banging out Greek phrases and tried to win them over with comments such as how he married a Greek woman, how he loved all things Greek, ate souvlaki daily and drank short black coffees. Only after all this was revealed did he then make mention of the reason he was there, to catch Tony Mokbel, who he believed to be a threat to the people of Athens.
Even with this apparent threat to their people, the Athens police were still not convinced that they should help two distinguished law enforcers from Australia. That was when Lieutenant George Saxionis asked the all important question that would convince him and the department whether or not they should help – ‘where does your wife’s family come from?’ Coghlan answered first with his mother-in-law’s village but it wasn’t until he mentioned where his father-in-law was from that he realised he had hit the jackpot.
“He named a village in central Greece. Saxionis rose slowly and walked up to the Victorian, picked him up and kissed him. ‘That is where I come from. That is my village!’ He turned to his troops with one order: ‘We now catch this man. For Jim!’
“And this is how the Greeks took up the challenge,” wrote Mr Silvester.
But this wasn’t the only exaggeration of the Greek community in Saturday’s edition of The Age. An opinion piece on the Australian Labor Party compared the state of the political party to an “Athenian ruin”, perpetuating a negative portrayal of Greece in the media.