The Guardia Civil Raids Several Catalan Newsrooms

Update: 29 Nov 2017 State replied
Year 21 Sep 2017 Country Spain Category Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
21 Sep 2017 Spain Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

The Spanish Guardia Civil raided the offices of five Catalan newspapers on 15 September 2017 in relation to media coverage of the Catalan referendum on self-determination due to take place on 1 October. The Guardia Civil presented a judicial ruling prohibiting the targeted media (NacioDigital, El Punt Avui, Vilaweb, El Nacional, Raco Català, Libertat.cat) from publishing any institutional advertisement in favour of the referendum viewed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The Guardia Civil then proceeded to identify the journalists present. Several journalist organizations, such as the Union of Journalists of Catalonia (SPC) and the Ethical College of Journalists of Catalonia, denounced the intervention of the Guardia Civil. The SPC issued a statement on 18 September condemning "police intimidation" and recalling the freedom to comment on current events. On 20 September, the information portal Vilaweb, which refused to stop the dissemination of institutional advertising in favour of the referendum, was threatened with closure by the Guardia Civil.

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20 March 2018

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”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’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 Alpay’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 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. 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 Alpay’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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