Spanish Government Threatens to Take over Autonomic Public Media in Catalonia

Update: 31 Oct 2017 Resolved
Year 25 Oct 2017 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 2
25 Oct 2017 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 2

On Saturday 21 October 2017, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the application of article 155 of the Constitution, which will limit the sovereign capacity of the Catalan government. The measures announced by the Prime minister Mariano Rajoy (People’s party), with the support of the two main opposition parties (Socialist party and Ciudadanos) include the possible takeover of Catalan autonomic public media by the national government. The national government would have the power to revoke the current leaders of the Catalan Corporation of the Audiovisual Media (CCAM), which oversees the autonomic public media (TV channel TV3, Catalunya Radio and Catalan News Agency ACN). According to the national government, the measure aims at guaranteeing “a truthful, objective and balanced information, respectful of political, social and cultural pluralism, as well as territorial balance“. Several journalists' unions (SPC and FSC-CCOO) strongly condemned the threat of takeover of Catalan autonomic public media by the Spanish government.

Resolved On 31 October 2017, as the takeover of Catalan public media was excluded from a series of measures adopted in application of article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the Spanish government to take over the autonomous communities, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ”resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

30 Oct 2017 : Takeover of Catalan public media was excluded from a series of measures adopted in application of article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows the Spanish government to take over the autonomous communities. This measure was invalidated by the Senate on 27 October 2017, following an amendment tabled by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) . The control of the Catalan public media will hence remain in the hands of Parliament.

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On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

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