picture alliance / Pacific Press | Mercedes Menendez/RoverImages
Spain: Fine against photographer underscores urgent need for reform of Gag Law

ECPMF

21 June 2022

No Comments

The undersigned organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express serious concern over the recent €1,000 fine issued to Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Javier Bauluz under Spain’s controversial “Gag Law”. Our organisations believe this fine represents another example of the need for the Spanish government to urgently reform the most problematic elements of the law in line with international human rights standards to protect freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.

 

In November 2020, the photographer had been documenting the arrival of thousands of refugees and migrants to Gran Canaria. As he attempted to take photographs one morning of the arrival of a rescue boat at the port in Arguineguín, he was approached by two police officers. Video footage appears to show one of the officers grab him by the arm and demand he leave the public area. After Bauluz protested, the police issued him with two fines for “disrespecting an agent” and “refusing to identify himself”.

 

More than a year and a half later, Bauluz finally received a €960 fine for the two charges under Article 36.6 and Article 37.4 of Spain’s Law on the Protection of Citizens’ Safety – dubbed the “Gag Law”. Bauluz rejected the fines and said that police had limited press access to the arrival centre, unjustifiably limiting the ability of the press to properly document the situation at the centre, which had been criticised for unacceptable conditions. There is no option to appeal the administrative sanctions.

 

Bauluz is one of the many journalists, photographers and activists in Spain who have been fined under the 2015 Gag Law for alleged behaviours that would endanger the work of law enforcement authorities. Among other rules, the legislation allows authorities to fine journalists and media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police. Media freedom groups and human rights organisations have repeatedly criticised the law for violating freedom of expression and leading to arbitrary sanctions against journalists and media workers like Bauluz.

 

In December 2020, the Spanish Parliament started a long awaited discussion over the reform of the law. However, unfortunately this has not led to any tangible results so far, despite being one of the promises in the manifesto of the current government. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic has expressed her concern over the text of the suggested bill, which she considers insufficient to fully comply with Spain’s human rights obligations. In January 2021, the Constitutional Court validated the law’s compliance with constitutional principles, except for the provision referring to prohibition of unauthorised recording of law enforcement operations.

 

In the wake of the fine issued against Bauluz, MFRR partners again urge the Spanish government to push forward and undertake a comprehensive reform of the Ley Mordaza in line with international human rights standards. Our organisations also call for the fine against Bauluz to be immediately withdrawn. It is vital that all barriers that hamper the ability of journalists and photojournalists to carry out public interest work and document potential rights abuses are removed. Until this legislation is reformed, press freedom in Spain will continue to suffer.

Signed:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Plataforma por la Libertad de Información (PLI) [Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information]
  • FAPE (Federación de Asociaciones de Periodistas de España)

This statement has been coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

Read news by categories:

Related news

Statement

Slovakia: Deputy PM’s attacks undermined government’s broader efforts to strengthen press freedom

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists organisations today express dismay over the recent attempts by deputy Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič to denigrate the country’s media.

READ MORE
Statement

International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed before Parliament

A group of international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organisations today called on Turkish Members of Parliament (MPs)MPs to vote against down the bill on “disinformation and fake news".

READ MORE
Statement

Albania: Press freedom groups call for a fair trial in defamation lawsuit by former top prosecutor against Isa Myzyraj

A group of media freedom and freedom of expression organisations and journalist unions and associations are concerned by the defamation lawsuit filed against journalist Isa Myzyraj.

READ MORE
Statement

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted by police

The partner organisations of the MFRR express solidarity with the twenty journalists blacklisted by the Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) for their writing and join Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) in denouncing an apparent attempt to intimidate independent journalists and trade unionists.

READ MORE
Statement

Serbia: Support for OK Radio as it faces intimidation by powerful businessperson

The partner organisations of the MFRR today express support and solidarity with embattled broadcaster OK Radio and urge Serbian law enforcement authorities to put an end to the dangerous campaign of harassment and pressure exerted on the media outlet by a powerful local businessperson.

READ MORE
Statement

ECPMF to provide legal support to journalist Antonella Napoli

ECPMF’s Legal Affairs Committee has agreed to provide €10,000 in legal support to Antonella Napoli, a freelance Italian journalist, as she continues an almost 25 year long legal battle.

READ MORE