Basque journalist first punished under the controversial Spanish “Gag-law”

  • The Spanish government has punished a journalist for the first time using the controversial “gag law”. A Basque journalist working in ARGIA has been fined with 601 euros. According to the lawsuit the magazine has received from the Spanish government’s local office in Gipuzkoa, the Basque magazine’s journalist Axier Lopez published images of a police raid on Twitter "without permission". It’s the first sanction imposed to a Basque journalist using the "gag law" in such a context.

2016ko apirilaren 07an - 10:53

The cause of this lawsuit is a photograph of Naroa Ariznabarreta, who was arrested in Eibar the 3rd March, after she refused to appear in a judgement against her and other Basque activists.

They were sent to court because of a protest  action in 2007: after the Basque pro-independence youth movement Segi was banned by the Supreme Court of Spain, some activists decided to publicly reject that decision by cutting off the circulation of the A-8 highway.

ARGIA covered the disobedience action as well as the moment that the accused were arrested. Lopez was one of the journalists who worked in that coverage.

“The defendant published images of the police raid in Eibar in his Twitter account @axierL without any permission. The police officers that took part in the operation can be identified by those images, with the risk this poses to them”, according to the complaint.

The Spanish government’s local office has used the new public security legislation to justify the fine. It’s a penalty of 601€ for covering the news about the arrest.

Freedom of speech threatened for Basque journalists

The Spanish government threatened another Basque independent news site last year., a digital journal focused on social movements in Navarre, received a memo stressing that Spanish police officers appeared in a photograph published during the world-known celebration of San Fermin.

Carmen Alba, the Government’s representative in Navarre, warned the independent journalists about the punishments they can receive for publishing police members’ images or information with “no permission”.

Basque and Spanish parties against the “gag law”

All of the main parties in the Basque Country and Spain, except the president’s conservative Partido Popular, have criticized the “gag law”. This week, the Spanish parliament’s opposition parties joined to knock down three of the most important laws from the last term, which are the flagships of Mariano Rajoy’s government: the public education reform, the new Criminal Code and the “gag law”.

In February 2014, the Basque parliament asked the “gag law” to be rejected. A demand supported by both Basque self-government supporters and unionists with the exception of Partido Popular, which represents the 12% of citizens.

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