Media freedom alerts

 

Police Seize Journalists' Equipment and Documents in Mallorca Leaks Investigation

No state reply yet
Year 18 Dec 2018 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner Index , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , RSF Alert level Level 2
18 Dec 2018 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Index , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , RSF Level 2
No state reply yet

Police officers investigating the leak of a classified police file seized documents and equipment belonging to two investigative journalists on the Balearic island of Mallorca. A court in Palma de Mallorca ordered the confiscation of documents, mobile phones and computers used by journalists Kiko Mestre of the regional daily Diario de Mallorca and Blanca Pou of the Palma-based news agency Europa Press in a bid to determine the source of an information leak relating to a corruption case involving prominent Mallorca businessman Bartolomé (Tolo) Cursach. The outlets concerned refused to voluntarily hand over any material, insisting on the journalists' right to protect the confidentiality of their sources.

Political Appointments to Head Spanish and Catalan Public TV Channels

Update: 06 Dec 2018 Resolved
Year 16 Mar 2016 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
16 Mar 2016 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

On 8 March 2016, the Board of Directors of the Spanish public channel RTVE decided to appoint as director, Eladio Jareno, a former head of communication for the Catalan Popular Party. The Spanish Federation of Journalists' Unions (FeSP), in a statement, condemned this decision that is likely to reinforce governmental control over the national public channel. On 28 February 2016, the Union of the Journalists of Catalonia (PSC) in the same manner deplored political appointments within the new leadership of Catalan public media (TV3 and Catalunya Radio), entrusted to individuals with known allegiance to parties forming the Catalan government coalition, namely the ERC and CDC. Journalists' unions are calling for legislative reforms aimed at guaranteeing the independence of public media from the interference from political parties, notably by making possible the appointment of public media board members by a qualified vote of the Parliament.

Resolved The president of the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE resigned on 22 June 2018, in the wake of a law adopted by the Spanish Parliament under which the members of RTVE’s management and governing bodies should be chosen by means of competitive examination. On 6 December 2018, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

25 Jun 2018 : José Antonio Sánchez, the president of the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, resigned on 22 June 2018, in the wake of a law adopted by the Spanish Parliament under which the members of RTVE’s management and governing bodies should be chosen by means of competitive examination.

State replies

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

Spanish Public Security Law Threatens Freedom of Press

Update: 23 Nov 2018 State replied
Year 07 Apr 2015 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
07 Apr 2015 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

The Public Security bill was adopted on 26 March 2015 by the Spanish Parliament on the proposal from the People’s Party (the right wing conservative in power). The bill is hostile to press freedom and allows government to sanction journalists for taking pictures or filming police forces in the exercise on their duties. Article 26 of the bill provides that “unauthorised use of pictures, films or personal/professional data of authorities or members of security forces will be considered as serious offence because they could put their personal or their family’s security in danger.” The sanction provided for is a fine of 601 to 30 000 Euros. The Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information (PDLI), of which the Spanish Union of Journalists (FESP) is a member, has stated that: “The passage of this bill represents the worst attack on fundamental freedoms in Spain since the end of Franco dictatorship. There’s no democratic ground to such a direct attack against freedom of demonstration, information and expression.

Follow-ups

23 Nov 2018 : CoE Human Rights Commissioner urges Spain to ensure that the Law on Citizens’ Safety upholds the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.
23 Oct 2015 : PACE Monitoring Committee asks the Venice Commission for an opinion on the Citizen Security Law.

A Telemadrid Cameraman Assaulted by Protesters in Barcelona

Update: 17 Sep 2018 State replied
Year 03 Sep 2018 Country Spain Category Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 2
03 Sep 2018 Spain Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Non-state EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 2

On 29 August 2018, in Barcelona, several participants in a demonstration organised by the party Ciudadanos assaulted a cameraman from Madrid's public broadcaster Telemadrid. Protesters hit him several times in the head. The attackers thought that the cameraman was working for the Catalan public broadcaster TV3. They kept on shouting "Go away TV3!" during the assault. The cameraman filed a complaint with the local police. The works councils of Telemadrid and TV3 issued a joint statement denouncing the aggression and the climate of hostility towards media workers.

State replies

17 Sep 2018 : Reply from the Spanish authorities (in French)

Electoral Coverage under Political Control in Spain

Update: 06 Aug 2018 Resolved
Year 15 May 2015 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
15 May 2015 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

In April 2015, the Collegium of Journalists of Catalonia has launched a campaign to denounce to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the legal provisions which lock the coverage of election campaigns in the Spanish public media. The Spanish electoral law makes it possible for a central electoral commission, composed of judges and experts appointed by political parties, to impose coverage criteria of an electoral campaign to the public media: the so called "Electoral information slots". In particular, the parties decide on the length of airtime which must be devoted to each political party and in which order these interventions should be disseminated during the 15 days preceding the election. These “slots” apply to the entire editorial production of the public broadcasters, including TV news. This instrument contradicts the independence of public media editors, forcing them to boycott the new political parties in favour of parties already represented in Parliament. The EFJ and IFJ believe that this political interference in the editorial work violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which enshrines explicitly "the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority”

Resolved On 28 May 2015, the European Court of Human Rights rejected the application lodged on 22 January 2015 by the Collegium of Journalists of Catalonia. On 6 August 2018, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ”resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

State replies

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

06 Aug 2018 : Code of good practice in electoral matters

Spanish Politician Seeks to Jail Journalists who Uncovered Fraud Scandal

No state reply yet
Year 06 Jul 2018 Country Spain Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat Non-state Partner IPI Alert level Level 2
06 Jul 2018 Spain Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Non-state IPI Level 2
No state reply yet

Cristina Cifuentes, the former president of the Community of Madrid, has filed papers in court seeking jail sentences for two journalists who revealed her alleged involvement in a fraud scandal. The complaint accuses Eldiario.es founder and Editor-in-Chief Ignacio Escolar and investigative journalist Raquel Ejerique of aggravated disclosure of confidential information (descubrimiento y revelación de secretos). The criminal complaint seeks to jail Escolar and Ejerique for up to five years. It accuses the pair of having acted “blindly” in pursuit of a “valuable exclusive”. Eldiario.es launched a series of reports on March 21, 2018, written by Ejerique, explaining how Cifuentes had allegedly obtained her master’s degree from Rey Juan Carlos University through fraud. The information published by the news site generated great public interest in Spain and put political pressure on Cifuentes, who eventually stepped down several weeks later following an unrelated shoplifting scandal. The reports also prompted a criminal investigation into Cifuentes for falsifying public documents and bribery.

Impunity for Police Officers who Attacked Journalists

No state reply yet
Year 19 Mar 2018 Country Spain Category Impunity Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
19 Mar 2018 Spain Impunity State EFJ/IFJ Level 2
No state reply yet

Several Spanish journalists' organisations (FAPE, FeSP and FSC-CCOO) denounce the judicial impunity enjoyed by police officers who assaulted three journalists while they were covering an arrest following an anti-monarchy demonstration held in Madrid on 29 March 2014. Three regular contributors to the online daily eldiario.es, Gabriel Pecot, Mario Munera and Juan Ramón Robles, were assaulted by police while covering the event. The journalists had immediately filed a complaint that was dismissed without further action. Following an appeal against this first judicial decision, on 24 May 2017, the provincial prosecutor's office considered that there was no evidence that the police had prevented the exercise of freedom of information by the journalists present. On 13 March 2018, Madrid investigating court no. 46 ruled the limitation period for this case had come to an end. According to the court, the only police officer formally identified by the Justice did indeed strike two journalists on the arms and neck, but the facts were then considered as time-barred. The journalists' lawyers are accusing the provincial prosecutor of deliberately delaying the analysis of the case in order to exceed the expiry date of the limitation period.

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.

State replies

Turkish-Swedish Journalist Detained at Airport Following Request by Turkey

Update: 02 Nov 2017 Resolved
Year 09 Aug 2017 Country Spain Category Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner Index , EFJ/IFJ , IPI , RSF Alert level Level 1
09 Aug 2017 Spain Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Index , EFJ/IFJ , IPI , RSF Level 1

Turkish journalist Hamza Yalçın, who also holds a Swedish passport, was detained by passport police at the El Prat airport in Barcelona on 3 August 2017, where he was vacationing. Police reported to Spanish news agency EFE that he was held by police following Interpol order, Turkish news website Diken reported. The next day he was arrested on charges of “insulting the Turkish president” and “terror propaganda” for an article he wrote for Odak magazine. A group of Swedish journalists have condemned the detention in an open letter, asking the Swedish Government to intervene. Yalçın has lived in Sweden since 1984.

Resolved On 2 November 2017, following the release of Hamza Yalçin and the decision of the Spanish Government not to extradite him to Turkey, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be ”resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

29 Sep 2017 : On 29 September 2017, the Spanish Government decided not to extradite Hamza Yalçin to Turkey.
29 Sep 2017 : On 28 September 2017, a Spanish judge has granted provisional release from custody of Hamza Yalçin, after Pen International and the Barcelona City Council guaranteed to the court that they would house him in Spain while the extradition claim is being assessed.

State replies

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

09 Oct 2017 : PACE resolution on abusive recourse to the Interpol system: the need for more stringent legal safeguards

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.

Journalists Assaulted in Catalonia

No state reply yet
Year 04 Oct 2017 Country Spain Category Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat Unknown Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 1
04 Oct 2017 Spain Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Unknown EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , RSF Level 1
No state reply yet

Several journalists were the targets of attacks while covering events in the wake of the Catalan referendum on self-determination held on 1 October 2017. On 2 October, press photographer Jordi Borràs was assaulted by a Spanish gendarmerie officer (Guardia Civil), who tried to snatch his camera from his hands while he was covering a demonstration in Calella for the information website "El Món". On 3 October, Ana Cuesta Herráiz, a journalist working for the private channel La Sexta, was also subjected to threats and insults by demonstrators who accused her of "manipulation" as she was covering the events, in Calella. The Catalan police force (Mossos d'Esquadra) had to ensure her safety against the demonstrators. On the same day, another La Sexta journalist, Guiomar Roglán, had to be evacuated out of the Catalan parliament by the Barcelona Urban Guard and the Catalan police force (Mossos d'Esquadra), as hundreds of demonstrators, gathered in front of the Parliament, were insulting and threatening her. On 3 October, journalist Jesús Badenes of the Catalan daily "Diari de Girona" was reporting on the general strike by filming a picket line in Salt. He had to be hospitalised after being violently hit on the head by an unidentified person who was upset with being filmed. The strikers stated that the aggressor was not one of them. The Catalan police have opened an investigation.

Updates

05 Oct 2017 : On 3 October 2017, besides Guiomar Roglán, other journalists from La Sexta, including Antonio García Ferreras, had to be evacuated out of the Catalan parliament by the Barcelona Urban Guard and the Catalan police force (Mossos d'Esquadra), as pro-independence demonstrators, gathered in front of the Parliament, were insulting and threatening people them.

Journalist Brutally Assaulted in Melilla, Spain

Update: 11 Sep 2017 Resolved
Year 26 Jun 2015 Country Spain Category Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 1
26 Jun 2015 Spain Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Non-state EFJ/IFJ Level 1

Spanish journalist Javier Garcia Angosto was brutally assaulted, on Thursday, 25 June 2015, in Melilla, following the publication of a series of articles denouncing alleged irregularities in the awarding of a public tender for the use of one of the beaches in the locality of Melilla to one Horeca agency. The journalist was attacked in front of his home, where the owner of the agency and one accomplice laid in wait for him. The journalist, who suffered serious physical injuries, was abandoned in a semi-cosncious state by his assailants. Local media, Cablemel TV, Luz de Melilla and Vinilo FM, as well as the Spanish Federation of the Journalists Unions (FESP), member of the IFJ and EFJ have condemned that savage assault which they regard as an intolerable violation of the freedom of the Press. The representatives of professional organizations have called upon law enforcement and justice agencies to make every effort to bring the aggressors to justice.

Resolved On 11 September 2017 the partners of the Platform declared this case to be "resolved”, concluding that it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

12 Dec 2015 : On 12 December 2015 a Melilla Court found Juan Carlos García Sola, the owner of the agency exposed in Angosto`s reports, guilty of assault against the journalist and sentenced him to a 2.400 euro fine.

Judge Attempts to Censor "Footballleaks" Inquiry

Update: 26 Apr 2017 No state reply yet
Year 06 Dec 2016 Country Spain Category Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 2
06 Dec 2016 Spain Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , RSF Level 2
No state reply yet

Madrid Judge Arturo Zamarriego has sought the cooperation of justice systems across Europe in his request to prohibit any publications about the international journalistic inquiry named “Footballleaks” concerning severe tax evasion in professional football. The request targets the twelve media outlets which are members of the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium. After seven months of investigation and having analysed 18.6 million documents, journalists from the German daily newspaper “Der Spiegel” and their colleagues from the European Investigative Collaborations consortium (of which “El Mundo” is a member), uncovered the widest tax evasion scandal in the history of European professional football, publishing it in their editions of 2nd December 2016. The daily newspaper “El Mundo” announced Judge Arturo Zamarriego’s decision to ban the publishing of the results of the Footballleaks inquiry, going as far as threatening the director of the newspaper, Pedro G. Cuartango, with a five year prison sentence. Judicial proceedings were initiated on 29th November 2016 by the law firm Senn Ferrero Asociados Sport & Entertainment, which is known for having advised many stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo on fiscal matters. “El Mundo” refused to give in to pressure by lodging a complaint and by publishing, as planned, the first part of the inquiry on 3rd December 2016. On the 5th December, it was revealed that the request for a ban on publishing was not only applicable to “El Mundo” but to all of the media partners of the consortium. The judge considers that the revelations of the consortium constitute an invasion of the private nature of the communications of the complainants (article 197.1 of the Spanish criminal code). Zamarriego has suggested that the information about personal and fiscal data used by the consortium may have been acquired through illegal means, which the consortium denies. The judge ordered “the prohibition of the publication of confidential data of a personal, financial or legal nature […] of the clients of Senn Ferrero".

Updates

26 Apr 2017 : On 26 April 2017, Judge Zamarriego allowed law firm Senn Ferrero to file proceedings against the director of El Mundo Pedro García Cuartango, the president of Unidad Editorial, Antonio Fernández Galiano and three news editors - Javier Sánchez, Paula Guisado and Quico Alsedo. They are being charged with disclosure of company secrets and disobedience against authority.

Follow-ups

06 Dec 2016 : OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media says in a statement: "Court ruling in Spain ordering El Mundo newspaper not to publish story is a threat to investigative journalism"

Police Pressure and Censorship following the Release of Recorded Conversations of the Interior Ministry

No state reply yet
Year 28 Jun 2016 Country Spain Category Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
28 Jun 2016 Spain Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 2
No state reply yet

Police officers intervened, on Friday 24 June 2016, in the news room of the daily Público, in Madrid, in order to seize the recording of conversations between the Spanish Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, and the Director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of Catalonia, Daniel de Alfonso. On Tuesday 21 June 2016, the newspaper revealed these conversations, held on 2 and 16 October 2014, which are considered compromising for the Minister. Since they were not in possession of a warrant issued by a judge, the police could not seize the records. On 22 June, the Independent Council on Information of the Spanish public television channel TVE requested the immediate resignation of the Management of the Information Department and of TVE’s Director, accusing them of censoring the broadcast of extracts of the recordings during the TVE news.

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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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