The leader of Spain’s Podemos party defends the coalition government’s push to change the controversial ‘gag law’. Introduced by the previous government, it is seen as a blow to civil liberties.
Ione Belarra, the leader of Spain’s Podemos party, serves as the minister for social rights in the Socialist-led minority government. She said the public security legislation eroded basic democratic rights. Belarra considers it “the greatest blow to civil and political liberties” since the country’s return to democracy.
Criticised by UN experts
The so-called gag law has been criticised by UN experts, journalists and human rights groups. It allows authorities to fine journalists and media organisations who distribute unauthorised images of police. It also sets strict limits on where and where protests can be held and imposes hefty financial penalties on offenders.
The PP, the far-right Vox party and dozens of policing groups are opposing the changes. They claim they will impede officers’ ability to do their job and tip things in favour of criminals.
Belarra spoke with the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, saying change was long overdue. She suggested the legislation had been deliberately engineered to clamp down on dissent as Spain endured the socioeconomic effects of the 2008 financial crisis.
“I think it’s certainly the greatest blow to civil and political liberties since the transition [to democracy], and I don’t think that’s an exaggerated view,” she told The Guardian. “It’s also clear that the People’s party undertook this reform during a brutal economic crisis and that it was done specifically to stop people protesting against … measures such as the cuts to public services.”
Podemos would like amendments to go further
Belarra acknowledged the Unidas Podemos alliance would have liked the amendments agreed with PSOE to have gone further. However, she said the bloc was satisfied with the deal.
“There are measures in the amendments that are good news: you don’t need to give notice of [spontaneous] demonstrations, and they’re going to reduce the fines and base them on people’s different economic capacities so as not to deter people from exercising their civil and political rights on financial grounds,” she said.
“And people will no longer be punished for taking and sharing images, which has really limited freedom of information in Spain and seen the repression of journalists who were doing their jobs legitimately and legally,” The Guardian reported.
The right angered by proposed changes
The PP leader, Pablo Casado, joined police at a protest in Madrid on Wednesday, as did Santiago Abascal, Vox leader. Another demonstration is due to be held in central Madrid on Saturday.
Casado said he would take the matter to Spain’s constitutional court if the changes were passed. “We’re not going to put up with this outrage when it comes to protecting those who protect us,” he said. “There’s no freedom without security and the Policía Nacional and the Guardia Civil are the ones that guarantee our freedoms. If the reforms in this law go through, they’re going to end up being totally sold out to the criminals.”
At least one police union – the ARP (Police Reformist Group) – has thrown its weight behind the changes and announced it will not participate in any of the protests.
A number of people have been arrested under the law, including rapper Pablo Hasél.