39 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 504,782 sq. km.
Languages: Spain, Catalan, Basque, Galician
Head of state: José Luis Rodriguez-Zapatero
Press freedom is guaranteed in Spain. Journalists reporting on the Basque country continue to come under pressure from the terrorist movement Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) and some journalists have been forced to live under police protection. ETA has for a number of years figured on Reporters Without Borders’ list of press freedom predators. Spain also suffers from an inability to regulate media coverage of its elections, which regularly prompts debate within the leading countries of the European Union.
Fifty years after its creation, the terrorist movement ETA, which wants independence for the Basque country, has still not been eradicated. Not all media suffer ETA intimidation to the same degree, but all journalists are subjected to a climate of hostility. They can receive threatening letters in reaction to their articles, media can find themselves on blacklists of “enemy” media, reporting gets interrupted, demonstrations are held outside media offices, petrol bombs thrown, attacks launched against television distributors and posters appear in the street giving the names and addresses of “enemy” journalists. Some journalists have police protection or personal bodyguards. A car bombing in Bilbao on 31 December 2008 against the headquarters of Basque television and radio EiTB, and several other media (El Mundo, Deia, Onda cero, Antena 3, Expansion and Marca), underlined the fact that ETA militancy against the media is still a threat.
Less violent, but just as persistent is the problem of media coverage at election time, which arose again at general elections on 9 March 2008. The long list of press problems include limited access to candidates, a ban on recording candidates’ speech at rallies, completely controlled debates, press conferences without questions, official obstacles and complications. Attempts to establish a law regulating the role of the public media during election campaigns have so far got nowhere. The demands made by some political parties or their media advisors relegate journalists to the role of spectators and turn editorial freedom into political propaganda.
While the acquittal was welcome in December 2008 of two satirical cartoonists, Josetxu Rodriguez and Javier Ripas of the weekly Caduca Hoy, and the journalist Nicola Lococo of the newspaper Gara prosecuted over a cartoon of King Juan Carlos, cartoonists Guillermo Torres and Manuel Fontdevilla of the daily El Jueves are still waiting for the outcome of their case. They should benefit from the same ruling given the similarity of the two cases.