Athens: Greece`s government on Wednesday announced the immediate closure of public television and radio broadcaster ERT, in a shock move that affects nearly 2,700 jobs.
"ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said at a news conference.
Shortly after the announcement, thousands rushed to the main ERT headquarters in a northern Athens suburb to show their support.
"This is a coup d`etat," Alexis Tsipras, leader of main opposition party Syriza, who rushed to the ERT premises, told reporters.
Kedikoglou said the organisation will reopen at a later stage under a new format and with considerably fewer employees.
"At midnight all screens will go black, nobody knows when it will open again. This is a total shock," ERT journalist Pantelis Gonos told a news agency.
"We will broadcast until they shut us down. We are in contact with a legal advisor and international media organisations," Gonos told a news agency.
Nearly 500 people also gathered outside the organisation`s Thessaloniki branch in northern Greece as news editors union Poesy called on private broadcasters to hold an immediate work stoppage in solidarity.
"ERT belongs to the Greek people... It is the only independent, public voice and it has to remain public... We condemn the government`s sudden decision," public sector union GSEE said in a statement.
The government said all current employees will be compensated and will be allowed to reapply for a job at a revamped organisation.
The junior partners of Greece`s three-party, conservative-led coalition government also expressed opposition to the shock closure.
"We absolutely disagree with the government`s particular decisions and management," said socialists Pasok.
"We will not vote in favour of the law validating this legislative act," the party added, noting nonetheless that governmental cohesion was not at stake.
ERT employees have been staging work stoppages for months, opposing plans to restructure the broadcaster as demanded by Greece`s so-called troika of international creditors.