Armed and libellous?

A controversial magazine cover is causing a spat between Germany and Greece

Armed and libellous?
Mogens Flindt/AFP/Getty Images

An international spat between Greece and Germany was sparked when Venus de Milo, a Greek marble statue of Aphrodite—arguably the most famous armless goddess in the world—made a controversial appearance on the cover of the German magazine Focus. The problem? Her right arm was intact and she was flipping readers the bird. The magazine’s cover story—“Swindlers in the euro family”—explored German concerns regarding the bailing out of debt-stricken Greece, and outlined the nation’s supposed “2,000 years of decline,” including tax fraud and failed construction projects.

The cover was condemned by the Greek president shortly after it hit newsstands in February 2010. And now, more than a year later, six Greek citizens are taking legal action against Focus—alleging the cover was defamatory, libellous, and responsible for the denigration of Greek national symbols. Along with nine other employees of Focus, Helmut Markwort, the magazine’s founder, is due to appear in an Athens court on June 29. Despite facing two years in prison if found guilty, Markwort is unfazed: “I’m not on the run, and I’m also not afraid that I will have to go to prison.” He says he has a “clean conscience” and that he was simply doing his “journalistic duty.”

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