Greek broadcaster defies order to close, continues Internet programming

ATHENS (AP) - Journalists fired from Greece's state TV and radio refused to leave the broadcaster's headquarters, continuing Internet programming instead, as the country's conservative-led government faced an acute political crisis nearly a year after taking office.

State TV and radio signals were cut early on Wednesday, hours after the government closed the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp, or ERT, and fired its 2,500 workers, citing the need to cut "incredible waste". However, thousands of protesters remained outside ERT's giant headquarters north of Athens through the night as journalists continued a live broadcast, which was streamed online.

Journalist unions called a 24-hour strike, halting private television news programmes, while the government's centre-left coalition partners demanded that ERT's closure be reversed.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces stern opposition from his coalition partners - the Socialist Pasok and Democratic Left party - for the decision. The executive order to close ERT must be ratified by Parliament within three months but cannot be approved without backing from the minority coalition lawmakers.

Left-wing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras slammed the closure as "illegal" during an interview on ERT's online broadcast.

"Many times the word 'coup' is used as an exaggeration," he said. "In this case, it is not an exaggeration."