Press freedom was slightly curtailed by the law protecting the image of the monarchy and strict application of defamation law had serious consequences for some journalists. The media were caught up in political party disputes, which led to a boycott of some media outlets. The Basque terrorist organisation Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) also continued to target journalists.
Three newspapers were prosecuted for tarnishing the image of the royal family. The satirical weekly El Jueves ran a cover cartoon in its July 2007 issue of Crown Prince Felipe and his wife having sex, as a way of ridiculing the government’s family planning policy of giving new parents €2,500 per child. The prince is shown happily telling his wife: “You realise that if you get pregnant, this is the nearest I’ll ever’ve come to knowing what it feels like to work.”
A judge ordered all copies of the magazine seized on 20 July and two of its journalists - Guillermo Torres and Manel Fontdevilla - were fined €3,000 each on 13 November for insulting “the king or any of his ascendants or descendants” under article 491.1 of the criminal law. The public prosecutor had asked for double that amount. The journalists, appealed against the verdict, which they said was “incomprehensible.”
The managing editors of the newspapers Gara and Deia appeared in court on 30 July in connection with an October 2006 photomontage in Deia’s satirical supplement Caduca hoy showing King Juan Carlos hunting a drunken or drugged bear. The pro-independence Basque daily Gara reproduced it on 2 November. The authors of the cartoon appeared in court on 17 September 2007 accused of “insulting the king.”
A heated debate on the government’s anti-terrorist policy affected the media in March. The head of the Prisa media group, Jesus Polanco, publicly deplored the problems caused by the very tense political atmosphere and called the opposition People’s Party protests against the government “pure Franco-ism.” The party immediately called for a boycott of Prisa titles, including the daily El Pais, the radio station Cadena Ser, the sports daily AS and the TV station Cuatro. Prisa also has shares in the French daily Le Monde and in Sogecable, the Canal Plus operator in Spain. The party said it would not take part in programmes, debates or interviews by any of the group’s media outlets until Polanco “publicly and unreservedly” withdrew his remarks. The dispute has since calmed down.
Journalists are still being targeted by the Basque terrorist organisation Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA). After the arrest in December of ETA member Gorka Lupianez, suspected of being the new head of the Vizcaya Commando and also wanted for the murder of two policemen in the southwestern French town of Capbreton, police found photos of journalists at his home. ETA has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of predators of press freedom since 2001. Its threats to journalists are one reason for Spain’s 33rd place in the organisation’s worldwide press freedom index. Journalists who work in the Basque Country or report on Basque issues are often forced to use bodyguards or armoured vehicles to guard against attempts to kill them.
Protection of journalistic sources also came under attack in Spain. Legal officials tried in September to get photographer José Ribot to hand over pictures he took during a Catalan nationalist demonstration in Gerona during which effigies of the king were burned and after which 11 protesters appeared in court. Ribot at first refused then complied after being threatened with a charge of “serious disobedience towards the judiciary,” punishable by between six months and a year in prison.
The autonomous government of Valencia shut down on 10 December one of the three transmitters of the regional TV station of Acció Cultural del País Valencia (ACPV), which has relayed programmes of the public Catalan station TV3 in the region for the past 20 years. ACPV was also fined €300,000 for “seriously violating” the telecommunications law. TV3 has not had a licence to broadcast in Valencia since December 2005 or an assigned digital terrestrial broadcasting frequency. Catalonia and Valencia officials have been negotiating for several months to allow the stations to broadcast. About 500 people demonstrated against the closure of the transmitter and in favour of freedom of expression.
Regional languages remain a sensitive issue. The public Catalan station Catalunya Radio dismissed one of its journalists, Cristina Peri Rossi, in October, for speaking in Castilian but then reversed the decision. Many intellectuals, including philosopher Fernando Savater, had criticised her dismissal.
A judge renewed an international arrest warrant in April 2007 for three US soldiers involved in the April 2003 death in Baghdad of Spanish cameraman José Couso, of the TV station Telecinco, in a US attack on the Palestine Hotel. The Spanish supreme court had reopened the investigation in December 2006. The judge, Santiago Pedraz, confirmed the warrant (after the three had been charged) despite an appeal by the public prosecutor. The US embassy in Spain said the US army had already (in 2003) investigated Couso’s death and concluded that the soldiers had complied with combat regulations. The first arrest warrant issued by Pedraz in October 2005 and his two requests for hearings came to nothing after a Spanish court closed the case in March 2006.