Wikipedia does not exist in a vacuum. It was built by and continues to grow thanks to real people, who give their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm to a movement that touches the lives of millions around the world. Unfortunately, giving this gift of knowledge is not without risk and often reveals the courage of our community.

Because of his involvement with Wikipedia, Greek Wikipedia user and administrator Diu is a target of legal action by politician and academic Theodore Katsanevas. Mr. Katsanevas complains that the Greek-language Wikipedia article about him contains some unflattering statements. Instead of addressing his concerns with the Greek-language Wikipedia community through the appropriate processes, Mr. Katsanevas chose to file a lawsuit against Diu.

The controversial statements in question reference the will of Andreas Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and father-in-law of Mr. Katsanevas. The will allegedly characterized Mr. Katsanevas as a “disgrace” to the family and reportedly accused Mr. Katsanevas of “attempting to politically exploit George Papandreou”, also a former Prime Minister of Greece. The statements were properly sourced and in accordance with Wikipedia policies. In fact, the controversy received a great deal of media coverage in Greece.

Diu has apparently been targeted because Mr. Katsanevas seems to believe that the statements were added to the article by Diu and because Diu did not remove the statements after Mr. Katsanevas demanded that he do so. In June 2013, Mr. Katsanevas filed a defamation lawsuit against Diu and The Greek Free / Open Source Software Society (“GFOSS”, also referred to as “ELLAK”), a nonprofit organization in Greece that Mr. Katsanevas mistakenly believed to be the organization running Wikipedia. The case is set to be heard in January 2016.

However, Mr. Katsanevas has now attempted to obtain a preliminary injunction ordering Diu to remove the statements from the Wikipedia article. The hearing is set for March 11, 2014. In the meantime, yesterday the Court issued a pre-preliminary injunction, ordering Diu to provisionally remove the reference to the handwritten will of Andreas Papandreou in the Theodore Katsanevas Greek Wikipedia article, until the March 11th hearing. However, even if the content is removed by Diu, there is no guarantee that the statements will not be republished by other users. The attempt to obtain such an injunction further illustrates Mr. Katsanevas’s apparent fundamental lack of understanding of how Wikipedia works.

The Wikimedia Foundation is deeply disappointed by the unwarranted actions taken by Mr. Katsanevas in this matter. Wikipedia is an open and collaborative project that is committed to uncensored information presented in a neutral point of view and supported by reliable, secondary sources. Diu acted within the scope of these principles and policies — the statements were and still are supported by reputable secondary sources [1] — and the Greek Wikipedia community decided, through discussion, that they were appropriate for the article.

Mr. Katsanevas has ignored these facts and is now using the legal system against those who do not share his financial means and influence. Diu faces serious monetary and criminal penalties as a result of Mr. Katsanevas’s lawsuit. We have offered — and Diu has accepted — assistance through our Legal Fees Assistance Program. Through this program, Diu has obtained independent legal representation with the well-known Lambadarios law firm, who we thank for helping Diu during this difficult time.

We hope that Mr. Katsanevas will reconsider his pursuit of this unconscionable lawsuit, which we see an assault on our users, our projects, and freedom of speech.

Until then, we stand with Diu.

Michelle PaulsonLegal Counsel

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[1] See sources used in the Theodore Katsanevas Greek Wikipedia article: http://www.tovima.gr/culture/article/?aid=84975, http://www.protagon.gr/?i=protagon.el.8emata&lid=3202, http://www.tovima.gr/relatedarticles/article/?aid=82208&dt=15/09/1996, and http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/1996/settembre/21/Atene_fattore_Mimi_abbatte_sul_co_0_96092113453.shtml