11 Jun 2019 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 06 Dec 2016 n° 123/2016 Spain

Judge Attempts to Censor "Footballleaks" Inquiry

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ Index RSF
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ Index RSF
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".
11 Jun 2019: In February 2018, the judge dismissed the charges against Pedro García Cuartango, Antonio Fernández-Galiano and three editors of 'El Mundo' for publishing the 'Football Leaks' after the parties had "reached an out-of-court settlement".
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.
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"
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