“An Execution to Please the Troika,” read one in the center-left newspaper Eleftherotypia, a reference to the trio of creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — whose representatives are back in Athens this week to audit Greece’s progress in sticking to conditions attached to the country’s multibillion-euro bailout.
Thomas Dedes, 67, a Greek retiree, said that a day spent chasing underground news reports and racing across online video channels and digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook reminded him of the unsavory days when Greece was ruled by a military dictatorship.
“This is worse than the junta,” said Mr. Dedes, recalling how people had to get their news surreptitiously or by word of mouth in 1973 when the junta’s leaders tightly controlled Greek state television and foreign news broadcasts. “What’s next? Tanks in front of Parliament?”
By early Wednesday, a form of guerrilla digital warfare had sprung up on the Internet to defy the government’s orders for a news shutdown. Numerous ERT employees continued operating an underground broadcast of Greek news through satellite streams. Those in turn were picked up by young Internet-savvy Greeks, who retransmitted hundreds of headlines on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day.
One leader of the organized charge is an Internet news outlet, the Press Project, whose founder, Kostas Efimeros, 38, sprang into action with his team of seven journalists and technicians immediately after the government announced that ERT, which ran radio and TV channels, would be closed.
As the government tried to cut the power to ERT’s antennas, Mr. Efimeros and his team tapped into satellite signals broadcast surreptitiously by ERT employees and posted them to the group’s Web site and on social media. In a telephone interview, he said the Press Project was working to transmit ERT’s broadcast signal via Wi-Fi as a backup.
The Press Project’s reporters have also been stationed outside of ERT headquarters north of Athens, where thousands of people have gathered in protest, as well as in front of the Parliament building, armed with cameras and microphones to keep the stream of news updates flowing.
Greece’s finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said Wednesday that ERT employees were breaking the law by continuing to broadcast news surreptitiously and would “face the consequences” if they persisted.
Mr. Efimeros said they were ready for that.
“If the police try to shut us down, we will still have ways to broadcast the news for Greeks around the world,” said Mr. Efimeros, who said the group started “guerrilla transmissions” of news on the Internet three years ago from Egypt, as the Arab Spring broke out. He said its experience there taught it how to outwit government efforts to shut down alternative news outlets.
The government said Tuesday that it had decided to shut ERT and would reopen it later with far fewer employees to satisfy the demands by Greece’s creditors because the news outlet had become corrupt and bloated. That view has long been shared by many Greeks.
“It is common knowledge that every time a new government came in, they would put in a new director sympathetic to the leading party, and would then hire a lot of people,” said Amalia Zavacopoulou, 32, a schoolteacher. “There are a lot of stories about how many people work just two hours a day.”
Voicing similar concerns was Dimitris Sporakis, 47, who lost his job in a detergent factory last fall. “They’ve been having a party up in Agia Paraskevi with our money for a long time now,” he said, referring to the Athens suburb where ERT’s headquarters are. “It’s about time the civil servants felt some pain, too.”
Nonetheless, many Greeks felt uncomfortable with what Ms. Zavacopoulou called a “quasi-authoritarian” approach by the government.
Prokopis Doukas, a former anchor for ERT’s main state channel, Net, said he and his colleagues were shocked and disappointed by the sudden decision to dismiss them but also angry that a government that is itself accused of corruption should call the state broadcaster a “haven of waste.”
“I’m not saying that employees and unions are blameless, but it’s the management and the politicians who put them there who are chiefly responsible for wasteful spending,” Mr. Doukas said before entering a studio in ERT’s headquarters near Athens to join colleagues for a live program, being broadcast on the Internet.
“Our real fear is that the same government that engaged in the exchange of favors is now saying it will create a modern, transparent broadcaster,” he said. “We don’t want the government to fall, but how can we trust it?”
The event raised the specter of a further weakening of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s fragile ruling coalition, whose politicians suggested they would try to block the move on Wednesday night even though it did not require parliamentary approval.
“We don’t want to bring down the government,” said Andreas Papadopoulos, an official for the Democratic Left, which is part of the coalition with the prime minister’s New Democracy party. “But this is a mistake by New Democracy and Mr. Samaras and must be corrected. With such actions they are testing the limits of democracy.”
On Mr. Samaras’s orders, the Mass Media Ministry on Wednesday quickly released a bill outlining the framework for a new, leaner replacement for ERT. The government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglu, said Wednesday that the new entity would be set up over the summer. It remained unclear how many people it would employ.