Thousands of anti-gag law protesters marched past the Spanish parliament in Madrid in April 2015, marking the first time a protest has ever been held using holograms. Photo courtesy of No Somos Delito.
This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on June 29, just before the Spanish law went into effect on July 1. The article is by Ana Pastor, researcher, Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press.
Based in Toronto, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) is a network of organizations connected by a shared commitment to defend and promote freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. Based in Washington, D.C., Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. WACC also advocates the right to communicate.
The article noted that after Spain's local elections in May, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy blamed the media for the defeat suffered by his conservative Popular Party (PP), citing their “constant hammering” on corruption cases that have shaken the government in recent years. This inclination to focus on public criticism as a problem in itself, rather than addressing the underlying issues, has also been reflected in the Rajoy government's legislative initiatives, Pastor wrote.
“The Law on Public Security imposes sanctions for protest-related offenses, with administrative penalties categorized as mild, grave, and very grave. The mild penalties range from €100 to €600 and will be applied to those who hold protests in public places without first notifying the authorities,” Pastor wrote.
Protests held near the parliament and other government buildings can draw fines of €30,000, while penalties for demonstrations adjacent to critical infrastructure like transportation hubs or nuclear power facilities can reach €600,000. Declining to identify oneself to the authorities, failing to obey orders to disperse, and disseminating unauthorized images of law enforcement personnel also carry penalties of up to €30,000. This last point in particular threatens photojournalists and others who seek to inform the public about any police abuses, said the freedomhouse.org story.
The law effectively limits freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in the name of security, however, PP parliament member Conrado Escobar is quoted as saying, “protests will be more free because they will be protected from violent people.”
To read the full article, click here.