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Spain: New ‘gag law’ is a serious attack on freedom of expression

Thursday 2 July 2015 - 2:23pm

As Spain’s new public safety law – or the ‘gag’ law - goes into effect this week despite widespread public outcry and criticism, PEN International is joining PEN Català in expressing concern about the way in which the law clamps down on freedom of expression.

Among other restrictions, the new law forbids unauthorised gatherings around Parliament and other important buildings, videotaping police officers and social media activism. In addition, the law carries hefty fines for a range of offences such as insulting a police officer, spreading damaging photos of police officers and for taking part in an unauthorised protest outside Parliament and other sensitive locations.

PEN International are deeply concerned about the way in which this new law  is undermining the rights to peaceful protest and to collective expression of opinion, rights that are fundamental to the existence of a free and democratic society. The purpose of the new law appears to be, among other things, the criminalization of protest, criticism and dissent. It restricts disproportionately the right of assembly and demonstration; expands the authority of the police and government, fosters impunity and legalizes "hot returns" of migrants at the border in Ceuta and Melilla.

The law legislates on numerous offences, some of them not comparable between them as, for example, protest activities in favour of social justice and criminal acts such as trafficking weapons. The sanction for the listed offences can rise up to €600,000.

PEN International considers this law a serious attack on freedom of expression and other human rights and urges the Spanish authorities to repeal or amend it to ensure these rights are fully protected.

For more information visit the PEN Català website.