The European Broadcasting Union on Friday asked Greece to reopen state broadcaster ERT after the government sparked protests with a surprise decision to pull it off the air in a bid to cut state spending.
"We ask the government to reverse this decision, we ask the government to re-establish the signal on TV, radio and web," said Jean-Paul Philippot, president of the EBU, which aims to promote public-service broadcasting and is the world's largest association of national broadcasters.
ERT employees and journalists are protesting for a fourth day after Tuesday's shock decision, which saw the broadcaster shut down within hours of a government legislative act.
Hundreds of ERT staff have been staging sit-ins at company offices in major cities, while the main headquarters in Athens is running a rogue broadcast on the Internet and through the Communist party TV channel.
"We will continue the occupation until ERT reopens and the legislative act is withdrawn," ERT unionist Nikos Tsimbidas told AFP.
"You will go down in history for blackened television," main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras told the government in parliament.
Tsipras has already likened the shutdown to a "coup d'etat."
For the first time since the decision, criticism also emerged from inside Prime Minister's Samaras conservative party on Friday.
"No means justify the ends, particularly when euthanasia is used as a cure," conservative European Parliament member Ioannis Tsoukalas said on his website.
Tsoukalas also called ERT's silencing "repulsive".
European Parliament chairman Martin Schulz also weighed into the debate on Friday, calling on Samaras to reconsider his decision.
Samaras heads a fragile three-party coalition in a careful balancing act to enact unpopular austerity reforms in return for bailout loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund .
He has now risked his government's cohesion just as investor confidence was beginning to return in recession-wracked Greece.
"The government needs to find a solution, such as reopening ERT under a bare-bones format," said political analyst Thomas Gerakis.
"To reduce the tension, the black screen must go," he said. "The country has important problems to worry about besides ERT."
Criticised by his socialist and moderate leftist allies, Samaras agreed to hold a meeting on the issue on Monday, with early elections a visible risk if the deadlock continues.
On Thursday, a general strike was called on ERT's behalf by the main Greek unions and some 15,000 people gathered outside the broadcaster's offices in Athens and Thessaloniki to demand its immediate restoration.
Samaras's administration is under heavy pressure from Greece's EU-IMF creditors to fire thousands of state workers to maintain access to bailout loans.
ERT has a long history of nepotistic hiring practises and government-biased news coverage, but it also provides an invaluable link to the Greek diaspora, border areas and isolated islands.
The government says it will compensate ERT's almost 2,700 employees and has pledged to set up a new public broadcaster with less than half the staff before the end of summer.
"We are giving ERT a chance to be reborn.... The new entity will be reinstated very soon," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told parliament, accusing the opposition of shedding "crocodile tears" for a hopelessly corrupt organisation with terrible viewer ratings.
But the conservative-led government faces accusations of authoritarianism, and even fellow EU countries have expressed alarm.
"If the signal was cut, a new signal was immediately reestablished like in Eastern Germany and it was seamless. What happened here has never happened ever," said the EBU's Philippot.
ERT is a founding member of the EBU.