April 22, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Concern about death threats against journalist investigating corruption in southern Spain

Reporters Without Borders is worried about the increasingly direct death threats that Gorka Zamarreño, an investigative reporter for, has been getting since he began covering the “Malaya Affair” trial in the southern city of Malaga. The case involves an allegedly vast network of corruption centred on real estate operations in nearby Marbella. “We are concerned not only for Zamarreño’s safety but also because such threats sustain a climate that discourages investigative journalism and transparency in a matter of general interest,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the Spanish police and judicial system to take whatever measures are necessary to protect Zamarreño and punish those responsible for the threats.” Zamarreño finally reported the threats to the police on 18 March but he told Reporters Without Borders they began as soon as the trial got under way. “The threats come from those close to the defendants, and some of them have been aimed at my wife,” he said. He quoted a defence lawyer as saying: “This journalist son of a bitch better take care and measure the consequences of what he writes.” Zamarreño said he received a phone call in which he was told: “If you continue to write, I will find you and kill you.” He said the call came from one of the defendants, businessman Francisco García Lebrón, who said he did not care if Zamarreño recorded what he said. The businessman is currently free on bail. Zamarreño has been covering the Malaya Affair for two years. He has taken a particular interest in the possibility that the defendants have benefited from corruption within the Malaga court and he believes the threats he has been getting are linked to the significant amount of documentation he has compiled on the subject. Other journalists covering the case have also been threatened. Zamarreño told Reporters Without Borders that investigative reporting is complicated in Spain and particularly so in the Malaya Affair. “Journalists are ready to take risks,” he said. “The problem is that the scale of the corruption in real estate deals has created a network of interests and patronage involving politicians, judges, police officers and lawyers. Money has corrupted the entire system and anyone combating it is subjected to pressure. The threats have made me take more care because I have to protect myself and my family.” He added that he has not so far received any threats since filing his complaint. The Malaya Affair, which has come to symbolize all the excesses of the Spanish real estate boom years, is the biggest corruption trial ever undertaken in Spain. A total of 95 people, including many local elected officials, are being tried on charges of money-laundering, abuse of authority, embezzling public funds, fraud and bribery. They are facing a total of 450 years in prison. The defendants including former Marbella mayor Julián Muñoz and several of his assistants who are accused of taking bribes in return for approving illegal real estate developments. It is estimated that as much as 4 billion euros may have been laundered through Marbella’s network of corruption.