|Mural spotted in Vueltas on La Gomera last winter|
Recently three laws widely criticized by the opposition and human rights groups were approved in Spanish Congress. The Penal Code, the new Anti-Terror Law and the Law on Citizen Safety. The three new texts challenge freedom of expression in the streets and on the Internet. All three laws are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2015.
Law on Citizen Safety (Gag Law)
“The gag law is revenge against social movements that emerged after 15M” – Patricia Martin, Avaaz
Under the new Citizen Safety Law or Ley Mordaza (Gag Law) as human rights defenders have renamed it, public protests, freedoms of speech and the press and documenting police abuses will become crimes punishable by heavy fines and/or jail. Some key points on the Ley Mordaza:
Photographing or recording police – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
Peaceful disobedience to authority – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
Occupying banks as means of protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
Not formalizing a protest – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
For carrying out assemblies or meetings in public spaces – 100 to 600€ fine.
For impeding or stopping an eviction – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
For presence at an occupied space (not only social centers but also houses occupied by evicted families) – 100 to 600€ fine.
Police black lists for protesters, activists, and alternative press have been legalized.
Meeting or gathering in front of Congress – 600 to 30.000€ fine.
Appealing the fines in court requires the payment of judicial costs, whose amount depends on the fine.
It allows random identity checks, allowing for racial profiling of immigrants and minorities.
Police can now carry out raids at their discretion, without the need for “order” to have been disrupted.
External bodily searches are also now allowed at police discretion.
The government can prohibit any protest at will, if it feels “order” will be disrupted.
Any ill-defined “critical infrastructure” is now considered a forbidden zone for public gatherings if it might affect their functioning.
There are also fines for people who climb buildings and monuments without permission. (This has been a common method of protest from organizations like Greenpeace.)
The Gag Law will also affect internet freedoms as tweets calling for demonstrations or protests may be subject to penalties and fines for organizers. While an individual user may not be considered “an organizer” it could also be construed to include anyone who disseminates a call to protest through any media, including social media.
“This is the worst cut of rights and freedoms since the Franco regime,” – Virginia Pérez Alonso, PDLI
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