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Spain20 December 2008

Basque newspaper humorists acquitted of insulting the king

Reporters Without Borders hails a Spanish court’s decision on 17 December to acquit cartoonists Josetxu Rodríguez and Javier Ripa of Caduca Hoy (the weekly supplement of the Basque daily Deia) and columnist Nicola Lococo of the Basque newspaper Gara of “gravely insulting His Majesty the King.”

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The Russian daily Kommersant reported in October 2006 that, while visit the Vologda region, Spanish King Juan Carlos was taken hunting and was allowed to shoot a tame bear called “Mitrofan” who had been fed vodka.

A few days later, Rodríguez and Ripa produced a photomontage for Caduca Hoy showing a laughing Juan Carlos with the head of a bear resting on a barrel labelled “Château Piquette, for when you want to feel like a king.” In a column for Gara entitled “The tribulations of Yogi Bear,” Lococo wrote that “it would have been better to hide the bears as Froilán’s teddies” (Froilán being the king’s grandson).

The decision to acquit was handed down by Judge José María Vázquez Honrubia of the national court in Madrid. The prosecution had requested a fine of 10,800 euros for each of the three defendants under article 491.1 of the criminal code.

“Judge Vázquez’s logical decision is to be welcomed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope this acquittal will inspire the court that is to hear the appeal against the fine of 3,000 euros that was imposed on cartoonists Guillermo Torres and Manuel Fontdevilla of the satirical weekly El Jueves. There should not be two different interpretations of the law in such similar cases.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Satire is by definition an inalienable part of freedom of expression. Morality or good taste cannot under any circumstances justify the conviction of a humorist in a country that belongs to the European Union.”

The two El Jueves cartoonists were convicted in November 2007 of insulting the Spanish crown in a front-page cartoon in July 2007 that showed Crown Prince Felipe having sex with his wife, Princess Letizia.




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