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Spain19 January 2006

Catalan autonomous region asked to amend broadcasting law

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Mr Josep Bargallo, chief minister of the Catalan autonomous regional government today about a law adopted by his parliament at the end of last month that would give the Broadcasting Council of Catalonia powers to regulate media content and impose sanctions that are arbitrary and contrary to the principles of free expression. The organisation asked him to submit amendments to the law to the parliament.

Dear Chief Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would like to express its deep concern about the broadcasting law that was passed by the Catalan parliament on 29 December.

We are aware that the Catalan autonomous community needs to have a law regulating the news media, but we believe that some of the provisions of this law pose an especial danger to press freedom.

Articles 80.f, 111, 113, 116, 128.c-2, 132.e and 140.1 of this law would enable the Broadcasting Council of Catalonia (CAC) to impose heavy fines on news media ranging from 90,000 to 300,000 euros and to order their closure by withdrawing their licences. According to these articles, the media must respect “the principle of veracity of news and information, based on verification of facts” and must not “obstruct the government’s surveillance activity.”

The law thereby grants punitive powers as extensive as those of a court of law to the Broadcasting Council, whose members are elected by a two-thirds majority of the Catalan parliament on the proposal of a minimum of three groups. The “veracity of news and information” is an expression that can be interpreted in restrictive and abusive ways. These provisions are completely contrary to the European legislation in force, which is much more favourable to the principle of free expression.

We therefore call on you, Chief Minister, to submit amendments to these article to your parliament in order to make them conform to the European standards in force.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

Sincerely

Robert Ménard Secretary-General




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