ATHENS, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- Greece was gripped in a 24-hour news blackout and other anti-austerity protests on Wednesday, on the eve of a fresh nationwide general strike called by the two major trade unions for Thursday.
As the government continued talks with representatives of international creditors over the conditions for the further release of bailout funds to keep the debt-crippled country afloat, hundreds of journalists, technicians at local dailies, television and radio channels and other professionals staged rallies in the center of Athens.
"We want jobs, no more unemployment. We can't live on starvation wages in the 21st century," read banners raised by construction workers in front of the Labor Ministry.
"We resist the abolition of labor rights. We fight for dignity," chanted journalists marching nearby, while doctors, pharmacists and lawyers staged in a similar peaceful protest in front of the Finance Ministry.
Wednesday's mobilizations were a rehearsal ahead of the upcoming 24-hour general strike, the second this autumn, organized by the umbrella unions of all private sector and public sector employees across Greece.
State companies, schools, universities and private shops are expected to shut down on October 18. Hospitals will run on skeleton personnel and mass transports will also be affected by the strike in protest of the harsh austerity drive launched in 2010 to address the Greek debt crisis.
In exchange of the multi-billion euro aid from European Union and International Monetary Fund, Greek governments have over the past two years introduced a series of cuts on salaries and pensions as well as tax hikes to reduce the country's budget deficit and overcome the crisis.
However, austerity has deteriorated Greece's deep recession, hiked unemployment and consequently the disappointment and anger of Greeks who struggle to keep afloat with their incomes that have shrank by some 30 percent on average in two years.
The new coalition government of Antonis Samaras has been holding marathon talks with international lenders since early September on a new austerity and structural reforms package for the next two years in order to receive more bailout loans in November.
The Greek leader hoped to secure the "green light" of European counterparts during Thursday's EU summit in Brussels, but according to Greek government sources, a deal is not expected in the next few days as Athens still differs with creditors on some spending cuts and labor market reforms.
Without international funding, Greece could financially collapse by December and exit the euro zone, sending shock waves to other European economies and the international financial system as well.