Freelance Spain
Press Freedom in Spain

A look at Spain's recent record as regards freedom of the press.

Freedom of speech and the press are guaranteed by Spain's 1977 constitution, which brought an end to nearly four decades of institutionalized press censorship under the defunct Franco regime (1936-75).

The most serious recent incidents concerning press freedom have been the Basque terrorist group ETA's attacks on journalists critical of their ideas. Journalists both in the Basque Country and elsewhere in Spain have been the recipients of threats and letter bombs. In May 2000, ETA gunmen shot José Luis López de la Calle, a columnist for the Madrid daily El Mundo, in his home town of Andoain (Basque Country). In November 2000 a couple in the Basque city of Bilbao, both journalists, and their 18-month-old son narrowly escaped death when a bomb planted in a flowerpot outside their home failed to explode. More than 100 journalists in the Basque Country are forced to use bodyguards or request police protection due to threats from ETA, according to the organization Reporteros Sin Fronteras.

On the other side of the dispute, in a controversial decision Spanish investigating judge Baltasar Garzón ordered the closure of the Basque daily newspaper Egin and its associated radio station Egin Irratia in 1998, on the grounds that it was a mouthpiece for the ETA terrorists. Egin's role has since been taken up by a new title, Gara.

In Catalonia, in 1998, the regional government refused to renew broadcasting licenses for radio stations sponsored by the Catholic Church, thus effectively closing them, because they allegedly did not comply with regional regulations regarding the use of the Catalan language.

Aside from these incidents, most concerns regarding the press in Spain center on the concentration of the media in a handful of large holding groups, and the self-imposed censorship or slanting of coverage in the major media, favoring certain business interests or political parties.

Copyright © Mark Little

Related websites:
International Press Institute -
www.freemedia.at
Journalists Sans Frontieres - www.rsf.fr

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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet