Spain urged to repeal gag law, complete state TV and radio reform, and stop obstructing reporters
As Spain’s new coalition government – formed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) and the left-wing party Podemos – begins implementing its first measures, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on it to urgently address years-old threats to press freedom in Spain.
Curbs on journalistic freedom in a draconian law restricting the right to protest and the media’s right to cover protests, dubbed the “gag law” because of the severity of its provisions, are still in effect although the Sánchez government has said it wants to repeal it.Fines totally nearly 4 million euros have been imposed under this law since 2015 on citizens, including reporters and photographers, often just because they took or published photos of police officers – sanctions that are all the more arbitrary for being imposed by the police without reference to a judge.“RSF has condemned the ‘gag law’ ever since it was submitted to parliament by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government,” said Alfonso Armada, RSF Spain’s president. We will continue to denounce it until it is repealed, because it violates the freedom to inform, and we call on this government not to introduce similar provisions in a new law.”
Similarly, reform of the state radio and TV broadcaster RTVE continues to be blocked by an improbable parliamentary deadlock. Approved in 2017 by a coalition of parties opposed to the then Rajoy government, it abolishes the government’s control over the appointment of RTVE’s president and management, who would instead be chosen by “public competition.”Although the law has been passed, its implementation is blocked by a series of conflicts between parliamentary groups about how the public competition is organized. RTVE’s destiny meanwhile remains in limbo.“This deadlock must be resolved so that RTVE can finally be provided with competent and transparent management entities in order to deal with the many challenges that are pending, challenges it cannot currently address because of this abnormal situation,” Armada said.
RSF also condemns the restrictions that the Sánchez government has imposed on media coverage of its speeches and press conferences. For example, only photographers were allowed to attend the announcement on 30 December that PSOE and Podemos had reached a coalition agreement. Reporters were confined to an adjoining room when the announcement was made.
A similar restriction was previously imposed at a press conference given by the prime minister in November, when reporters were allowed to ask only two questions. In response, one of the reporters protested on behalf of all of his colleagues as the press conference was being broadcast live.
Despite repeated protests by media and journalists’ associations, Sánchez again refused to talk to the media during a visit by Argentine President Alberto Fernández on 4 February when, as before, only photographers were given access to the official events.“This government, which claims to be very committed to defending freedoms, must set an example by respecting the freedom to inform,” Armada added. “This contempt for journalists’ work must stop.”
Spain is currently ranked 29th out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.