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Spain20 May 2003

Basque public TV threatened with prosecution for broadcasting ETA statement

Reporters Without Borders today urged the Spanish authorities not to prosecute the Basque public radio and television broadcaster Euskal Telebista (ETB) for broadcasting a videotape of three presumed members of the Basque terrorist organisation ETA reading a communique. ETB director general Andoni Ortuzar has been summoned for questioning on 21 May by the national prosecutor’s office, which will decide thereafter whether or not to prosecute.

"Our organisation is energetic in its condemnation of the terrorist organisation ETA’s campaign of violence, in which journalists are a favourite target," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to state prosecutor Jesús Cardenal Fernández. "But the right to inform and be informed must be respected in the fight against terrorism and we call on you to refrain from prosecuting this news organisation. There was no justification for suppressing the news item it chose to broadcast."

The videotape broadcast by ETB on 15 May showed three masked ETA members saying ETA did not envisage "any tactical truce" and demanding guarantees for "respect for the will of the Basques." They called on voters to cast a spoiled ballot in the 25 May municipal elections to protest against the outlawing by the Spanish judicial authorities of a pro-independence party allied with ETA. They also showed an ETA bulletin which, according to the Basque pro-independence newspaper Gara, said ETA would continue to attack the Spanish "war media."

ETA has killed two journalists since 2000 and has attacked or threatened many journalists and news organisations that do not support its use of deadly violence with the aim of obtaining Basque independence. More than 100 Spanish journalists are currently protected by police or private security companies, and news organisations have had to install such security measures as bullet-proof windows and scanners at their entrances.

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