Proposed Spanish Law Would Make Online Calls For Street Demonstrations, And Circulating Riot Images, Illegal
from the who-needs-militarized-police-to-muzzle-dissent? dept
Techdirt has been highlighting the growing problem of police militarization in the US for a while, and its huge impact on basic rights like free speech. But over in Spain, the government has taken a rather different approach to muzzling dissent. Rather than turning the police into a militia that can stop demonstrations through the use of overwhelming force, it’s aiming to bring in a new law that makes organizing and taking part in protests — both on the streets, and online — almost impossible. Here’s Global Voices’ summary of what the new “Protection of Public Safety Bill” currently proposes:
It is against the law to participate in a demonstration before a state institution without sending prior notification to the relevant government office.
Disobedience or resistance to authorities; refusing to identify oneself; and giving false or inaccurate information given to state security agents are all prohibited.
“Insulting, harassing, threatening, or coercing” members of the Security Forces will constitute a serious offense.
But in addition to these general measures, there are some aimed specifically at ending the use of the Internet to organize protests:
Those who call for demonstrations through the Internet, social networks, or another other means may also be penalized for having committed a very serious offense.
The circulation of riot images during demonstrations can also constitute a very serious offense, punishable by 600,000€.
Circulating information on the Internet that is understood to be an attack on an individual’s privacy or that of a person’s family, or that contributes to disrupting an operation, will be punished equally with fines up to 600,000€.
The chilling effect that those last three will have on protests is clear. People will be reluctant to express any view that might be interpreted as calling for a demonstration, however vague. Forbidding riot images from being posted will, of course, mean that images of any police brutality against demonstrators are less likely to be circulated widely, removing one of the few brakes on violent police responses. And the last one concerning an “attack on privacy” is so vague that any mention of an individual might well be caught by it. In addition, anyone “insulting” Spain, its symbols or emblems, may be punished with up to a year’s imprisonment.
Despite pressure from the public and opposition politicians, the legislation has been passed by the Spanish Congress, and now goes to the Senate for final approval. That means the only thing likely to halt it is an appeal to Spain’s Constitutional Court. What’s worrying here is the very clear intent to bring in a law that makes the online organization and coverage of peaceful protests difficult or even impossible — something that many other governments would doubtlessly love to achieve, and may well even be encouraged to attempt if Spain goes ahead with this awful proposal.