The Greek state broadcaster has been widely criticised for cutting a kissing scene between two men from the popular British series Downton Abbey.

NET made the decision to remove the scene from the period drama, which saw the character of a visiting duke smooching footman Thomas, played by William Mason.

The cut has led to outrage on social media networks with politicians also stepping into the fray.

“As incredible as it may seem for a democratic country in the 21st century, officials of the NET television channel censored the scene of a kiss between men from the TV drama Downton Abbey,” the Syriza party, the country’s main opposition party, said in a statement.

“This is of course an obvious case of censorship, an extreme act of homophobia and discrimination which unfortunately, after what has been happening recently, we cannot characterise as unprecedented.”

Despite airing the episode at 10.05pm, NET defended its action by saying that the scene was in conflict with the time slot’s restrictions.

“The love affair between the two men … was not censored,” said Costas Spyropoulos, managing director of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation. “The kiss was not shown because of the time the programme was broadcast and the corresponding parental guidance warnings.”

The broadcaster said that it would re-screen an uncut version of the episode in a later timeslot.

This incident follows last week’s protest by Greek neo-Nazis in Athens against the American play Corpus Christi which depicts Jesus as gay.

The protestors forced a postponement of the performance by blocking the entrance to the theatre and assaulting people, including journalists.

Greek journalist Yiannis Baboulias warned in The Guardian on Friday that the European Union must take action now to avoid a resurgence of “religious fundamentalism and fascism” in Greece.

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