440 Basque journalists, photographers and professors have started the campaign “Against the Gag Law, Journalism is not a crime”. Members of 80 medium have given their support to Iraitz Salegi, a journalist from the digital newspaper Topatu.info, who is facing a 18-month prison sentence. Salegi is charged with advocating terrorism, for actually informing about a political public meeting, for doing her job as a journalist.
The endorsers of this campaign believe that the Gag Law’s reductive and punitive view is being applied against Topatu.info‘s journalist Iraitz Salegi, even if the Spanish Government had not yet officially made the law effective.
What has happened?
March 2013, the youth organization Ernai organized a festival (Gazte Danbada) in Urduña. Salegi is facing prison for informing about the political public meeting held in that festival, which was public and open. She is charged with advocating terrorism. She will be judged on May 28 and 29, at the Spain’s National High Court, a court which was specifically created for terrorism cases. The public prosecutor asks for a 18-month prison sentence.
Eight more people are charged with advocating terrorism in that political public meeting: seven Ernai supporters and Periko Solabarria, member of the Basque pro-independence left. Iraitz Salegi is being charged with advocating terrorism for recording and then publishing the video of a public meeting to which 7.000 people attended, a meeting about which other Spanish media also informed.
Salegi talked to the judge on October 7, 2014: she stated she is a journalist and she explained the judge Velasco that informing about that political public meeting was her job. However, the judge and the public prosecutor have not taken into account her declaration, and they are keeping the charges and the prison sentence request.
Many Basque and Spanish media informed about that particular political public meeting; nevertheless, Topatu. info is the only medium which runs the risk of being punished. “We do not understand why they want to punish a journalist precisely for doing her job”, state the endorsers of the “Journalism is not a crime” campaign. “Among other tasks, our job consist in informing about projects, acts, riots, events and demonstrations the happen around us, and our public job should not be made a crime. They want to punish the messenger”.
Those who have endorsed the manifesto fear that Salegi’s case can be a way to condition journalists’ activity in the future: “We will not inform about how they have distorted freedom of speech in the name of law. We do not want to tell that piece of news. We journalists aim to be a useful tool for solving society’s problems. Journalism is a warranty for democracy, and if it is not free, there will not be any journalism, there will not be any democracy.
What does Gag Law mean?
Up to 30.000 euro fines for stopping evictions, demonstrating in front of the Spanish Congress or recording and showing images of police brutality. Up to 600.000 euro fines for demonstrating in front of public buildings or carrying out demonstrations that have been prohibited. Those are just a few measures considered by the Gag Law.
At the end of february the United Nations requested the Spanish Government to remove the Gag Law and the Penal Code reform. “The right to demonstrate peacefully and the right to state your opinions collectively are the fundamental basis of a free and democratic society” they stated. Nevertheless, and even all the opposition parties are against this Law, PP is carrying it on.