Journalists were aggressed, harassed and insulted as flag-waving Vox supporters drove through several Spanish cities in cars and on motorcycles on 23 May in protest against the way Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s centre-left government has been handling the coronavirus crisis.
In Madrid, protesters deliberately prevented Gabriel López, a reporter for the public television channel TVE, from delivering an on-camera report at the roadside by honking their horns and shouting insults. “Faggots, communists, you must tell the truth,” protesters shouted at López and his cameraman.
In a statement on Twitter, RSF Spain condemned these acts designed to obstruct the practice of journalism.
During the Madrid protest, a photographer for the newspaper La Razón was assaulted by several individuals, who threw his camera to the ground and tore his T-shirt. He immediately filed a complaint with the police.
Journalists covering the protest in Ceuta – a Spanish enclave on the North African coast whose city hall is controlled by the right-wing People’s Party (PP) supported by Vox – said they were subjected to racist and Islamophobic insults, some of which can be heard in the footage that a TVE cameraman posted on Twitter.
“It’s an act of the utmost cynicism typical of extremist groups to say they condemn attacks against the press and blame them on ‘the enemy,’ when it is the hatred of the media that Vox constantly stokes which is behind this violence,” said Alfonso Armada, the Director of RSF Spain. “Vox does not need to publicly assume its responsibility. We do it for them."
Vox denied any link with these attacks, which Vox spokesman Jorge Buxadé implied were the work of “far-left infiltrators”. This did not prevent Vox’s spokesman in Ceuta, Carlos Verdejo, from justifying the attacks by claiming that one of the targeted reporters was affiliated to Podemos.
RSF already called on Vox to end its press freedom violations last year. Even before last November’s elections, Vox imposed a boycott on certain media outlets, a boycott that it continues to observe.
“Some media outlets are banned from participating in Vox events,” Ceutaactualidad.com photographer Antonio Sempere told RSF Spain. “We journalists are directly denounced by regional parliamentarians who are on the public payroll. This is very serious.”
Spain is ranked 29th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.