Thursday, September 27, 2018

No free speech in Spain

In the United States, the protection of speech can be traced back to the foundation of the country, hence its prominent and purposeful inclusion as part of the first amendment to the Constitution. Over the course of two hundred plus years that freedom has been tested, and political and civil society leaders from different generations – from George Washington to Frederick Douglass to Cesar Chavez – worked to ensure the tradition of speaking truth to power remains a pillar of the American Republic.

An opposite approach has been taken in Spain, where current law treats peaceful protest as a public security concern, assigns heavy fines for acts of civil disobedience and criminalizes speech online, giving security services extraordinary powers, while limiting citizen protections.

Broadly condemned by the UN special rapporteur charged with protecting freedom of peaceful assembly, the New York Times’ Editorial Board summed up the most infamous of recent laws restricting basic freedoms by saying it had ‘no place in a democratic nation, where Spaniards, as citizens of the European Union, have more than a virtual right to peaceful, collective protest.’

As political tensions have risen between Madrid and Barcelona over last year’s independence referendum, the restrictions on free speech and assembly have gone into overdrive. Leaders of two of Catalonia’s largest civil society organizations have languished in preventative custody since October 2017 on charges of sedition, even though video evidence disproves the charges, which have been condemned internationally. And nine former members of Catalonia’s government and parliament are also jailed, even while their colleagues who chose exile rather than arrest  – including Catalonia’s former president Carles Puigdemont – live freely across Europe.

But measures to quash basic freedoms in Catalonia have not been aimed solely at political and civil society leadership, rather they have targeted dissent more broadly, including the right to protest, debate, and even artistic expression, with Spain recently assuming the dubious distinction of incarcerating more artists than any country in the world.

Much of the justification of repression by Spanish authorities comes in the form of comparing pro-independence leaders and organizations to the Nazis, a spurious accusation



Anonymous said...

Spain has a long history of repression.

Bird of Paradise said...

The sun has set in once Sunny Spain their not what they once were

Anonymous said...

Godwin's Law is invoked.
Spain loses.