Video footage of the harassment and physical violence to which Tele5 reporter Laila Jiménez was subjected by pro-Catalan independence demonstrators in Barcelona last week has caused shock throughout Spain and abroad, as it confirms that it is now dangerous for reporters to cover Catalan separatism on the region’s streets.
The assault on Jiménez took place as Catalan independence supporters were commemorating the second anniversary of Catalonia’s banned independence referendum on 1 October 2017.
“We are shocked and alarmed by the images that periodically reach us from Catalonia as we can see that the intensity of the attacks on the media is growing,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union desk. “What began as chanted slogans and criticism has become insults, harassment, intimidation and now physical violence. This is a pattern that is always repeated in spirals of hate against journalists.”
RSF has registered around 50 attacks on reporters and press freedom violations in Catalonia in the two years since the months of September and October 2017. “Killing the messenger” is now the leading way for demonstrators to express their anger, with the result that journalists reporting live on Catalonia’s streets are exposed to physical and psychological dangers that are incompatible with the freedom to inform.
“The climate of tension for radio and TV reporters is unbearable in Catalonia,” said Alfonso Armada, the president of RSF Spain. “The extreme political polarization has transferred to the media, and from the media to civil society. We therefore urge politicians and media outlets to act responsibly and to reduce tension insofar as they can.”
Armada added: “The imminent sentencing in the trial of the independence leaders will trigger more demonstrations, and journalists must not be made to pay the price with more assaults. We are already reaching absolutely intolerable levels of aggressiveness and violence.”
Spain is ranked 29th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
RSF lists the attacks on journalistic freedom in the past two years in Catalonia here.