The level of violence against journalists has fallen considerably thanks to a decline in the tension over Catalan independence demands, and it was not revived by the protests against measures to curb the pandemic. Political polarisation and patchy legislation threaten the right to information.
The Spanish media landscape is characterised by a high level of concentration at the national level. The privately-owned media groups Atresmedia and Mediaset and the public radio and TV broadcaster RTVE represent more than 75% of the broadcast media sector. At the regional level, this sector is marked by a significant presence of public broadcasters allied in the Federation of Regional Radio and Television Entities (FORTA), which increases the risk of political interference. There is more diversity in the print media sector.
Like Spanish society itself, a segment of the media are polarised and increasingly replace reporting with opinion, a trend that fuels public mistrust of journalists. Some media have accused Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government of a lack of transparency in its handling of information about the pandemic, while the far right harasses and vilifies journalists whose critical reporting it resents.
While repeal of the most controversial articles of the "gag law" makes its way through parliament, the police continue to use their powers to arrest journalists and the courts sometimes favour the version of the police over that of journalists. The media are also subjected to gag suits (SLAPPs) and to judicial proceedings that seek to deny their right to protect the confidentiality of their sources.
The high degree of media ownership concentration is accompanied by a lack of transparency about the influence that media owners exercise over public sector actors. This lack of transparency also concerns expenditure on advertising by both the state sector and major private-sector companies. Since the 2008 economic crisis and resulting loss of media sector jobs, journalism has become a chronically precarious profession.
Spanish society is tolerant and open to diversity, and journalists are rarely subjected to any pressure other than from the authorities. Parliament has begun the process of decriminalising a number of offences – including “offences to religious feelings,” “attacks on the symbols of the state” and “insults to the crown” – that have resulted in violations of freedom of expression in the past.
Protests against pandemic mitigation measures were not accompanied by significant violence against journalists. At the same time, a deescalation in the conflict over Catalan independence demands – which had triggered previous violence against reporters by protesters and police – has led to a reduction in physical attacks. However, a growing number of journalists are being subjected to harassment on social media.