FECL 10 (November 1992):

PLANNED AMMENDMENT OF SPANISH PENAL LAW THREATENS FREEDOM OF PRESS

The polemic around the planned revision of the Spanish penal code is continuing with undiminished intensity. Above all, the draft paragraphs on various forms of defamation and press offences triggered such a wave of protest that the bill is no longer expected to be voted within the current parliamentary period (until October 92).

The government of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales publically admits that the main aim of the "muzzle" paragraphs is to stem evergrowing media criticism of its conduct and of spreading government related corruption.

It is probably not a matter of pure coincidence that the ammendments were planned just after the newspapers "El Mundo" and "Diario 16" had caused enormous trouble for Mr. Gonzales' cabinet with their revelations on cronyism in the family of former Vice President Alfonso Guerra and on government and police involvment in the GAL death squadrons.

The government appears eager to avoid similar trouble with the media in future by introducing fines ranging up to one million peseta and prison terms of up to two and a half years. The proposed sanctions have been condemned in strongworded resolutions by, among others, the PEN-Club and the International Press Institute. Several thousand journalists and media workers from all sectors of the Spanish media on their part signed a declaration for the defence of the freedom of press and opinion.

Alexander Gschwind