Afrique Ameriques Asie Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Spain10 November 2008

Prosecutor requests five-month jail terms for journalists who covered radical Basque demo

Reporters Without Borders condemns the five-month prison sentences that have been requested for two journalists - reporter Asier Velez de Mendizábal of the daily Gara and photographer Lánder Fernández de Arroyabe of the Argazki Press agency - who covered a demonstration by a radical Basque nationalist group in Pamplona, in the northern region of Navarre.

The sentences were requested on 3 November by prosecutor Edilberto Esteban Iglesias of the Navarre provincial court. The journalists are charged with “complicity in disturbing public order.”

“The prosecutor’s position is incomprehensible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Firstly because, in his account of the events, he accepted that the two journalists were not part of the demonstration. Secondly, because they had press accreditation and were just doing their work.”

The press freedom organisation added : “It is outrageous that they must answer charges of complicity in demonstrations they were just observing. We call on the authorities to drop the charges against these two journalists and to return the equipment that was confiscated from them.”

Mendizábal and Fernández covered a demonstration staged by Basque Nationalist Action (ANV) outside the Pamplona city hall on 17 June in protest against the closure of some of its offices - ordered by Judge Baltasar Garzón on 8 February because of its alleged links with the armed separatist group ETA - and the fact that some of its election candidates had been declared illegal.

The protest was led by ANV municipal councillor Mikel Gastei, who broke the seals over the doors to the party’s offices in the city hall building. He and six other demonstrators are charged with disturbing public order and disobeying the authorities.

The Pamplona municipal police arrested the two journalists on charges of complicity under article 20 of the criminal code, and confiscated Fernández’s cameras.

In joint press release on 3 November, Baigorri Argitaletxea (the group that publishes Gara) and Argazki Press condemned the indictment as “a threat to the right to report the news” and voiced their support for the two journalists.

  In this country
16 January - Spain
Another Basque TV installation bombed
31 December - Spain
Basque public broadcaster targeted by ETA car-bomb
20 December - Spain
Basque newspaper humorists acquitted of insulting the king
31 July - Spain
Court orders Madrid radio host to pay 100,000 euros in damages
8 June - Spain
ETA bombing of Basque daily firmly condemned

in the annual report
Spain - Annual Report 2008
Spain - Annual report 2007
Spain - 2006 Annual report

Europe press releases
4 June - Kosovo
Rrokum TV station still excluded by national broadcasting network
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
2 June - Turkey
Woman journalist held for past five weeks on baseless charge of link to armed group
2 June - Russia
Journalist seeks asylum in Finland after being convicted for prison torture articles
29 May - France
Regrettable decision by appeal court to lift ban on magazine only if offending photo is covered up

5 February 2009 - Bulgaria
“Resignation or resistance, Bulgaria’s embattled press hesitates”
28 January 2009 - Russia
Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor
27 June 2008 - Turkey
Investigation report into the detention of journalist Haci Bogatekin, imprisoned for more than two months and facing ten and a half years in prison

Sign the petitions
Jusuf Ruzimuradov

Europe archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives