Spain puts an end to tricky issues in ‘gag law’

by Lorraine Williamson
gag law

MADRID – The Spanish coalition government has agreed to end the law known as ‘Ley Mordaza‘, the gag law. This Civil Security Act restricted certain freedoms such as those of expression and demonstration.

This Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana (Law for the Security of Citizens) was passed in 2015 without opposition support by the Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy, whose Partido Popular had an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament. 

The law allows for administrative sanctions for many forms of political protest. This means that people can receive large fines without legal intervention if they demonstrate. According to the then government, the law was necessary to maintain public order. However, in the years of crisis, this was regularly disrupted. As there were numerous protests by angry citizens against austerity measures, forced evictions, and the ubiquitous corruption within the Spanish government. 

In addition to prohibiting demonstrations without prior authorisation from the relevant authorities, the law also provided for the immediate deportation of illegal immigrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum. 

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If the law is repealed, citizens will again be able to distribute photos and videos of police officers without permission. This is regardless of whether they violate officials’ right to privacy. Furthermore, there were high fines under the law. 

Attempt to silence the population 

To opponents, the law was known as the ‘gag law’ because it would affect essential freedoms such as those of expression. Moreover, they saw in the law an attempt by the government to silence the population. The government would protect itself by slowly turning Spain into a police state. A sensitive point, because many older Spaniards still remember the time when dictator Franco held sway in Spain. And political ‘crimes’ were punished against the then government with his Tribunal for the Public Order. Under the law, demonstrating without permission could result in a fine of between €30,000 and €600,000. 

Fines reduced 

The reform proposed by the coalition parties PSOE and Unidas Podemos will reduce fines deemed excessive and apply proportionality criteria, adapted to the income capacity of the sanctioned persons, as well as their age in the case of minors. 

The decision has led to a deep malaise among the security forces, who believe the reform exacerbates their helplessness. Police unions are urging the government to uphold the ban on distributing photos and videos of officers on duty. 

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