Spanish Hate/Anti-Terrorism Speech Laws Doing Little But Locking Up Comedians, Artists, And Dissidents

from the it-will-get-a-whole-lot-worse-before-it-gets-even-worse dept

As Spain continues to expand its (anti-)speech laws, the rights of its citizens continue to contract. Not content with making it illegal to insult a cop or government officials, the Spanish government has decided to tackle hate speech and terrorism with the same ineptitude.

There’s no punchline here. People are being arrested and charged with speech having nothing to with promoting hate or terrorism. And this is in addition to people who’ve found themselves targeted by vindictive public servants for daring to publicly criticize their words or actions.

It’s gotten so bad Amnesty International — an entity that usually spends its time decrying the acts of dictators and brutal authoritarians — has felt compelled to speak up about Spain’s terrible speech laws. Mathew Ingram has more details at Columbia Journalism Review.

In a new report on the phenomenon, entitled “Tweet… If You Dare,” Amnesty International looks at the rise in prosecutions under Article 578 of the country’s criminal code, which prohibits “glorifying terrorism” and “humiliating the victims of terrorism.” The law has been around since 2000, but was amended in 2015 and since then prosecutions and convictions have risen sharply.

So, who’s been doing all this glorifying and humiliating? Well, it’s not supporters of terrorism. Instead, it’s musicians, artists, people telling jokes — pretty much everybody but actual terrorists or proponents of hate.

Among those who have been hit by the law are a musician who tweeted a joke about sending the king a cake-bomb for his birthday and was sentenced to a year in prison, and a rapper who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for writing songs that the government said glorified terrorism and insulted the crown. A filmmaker and a journalist have also been charged under the anti-terrorism law, and a student who tweeted jokes about the assassination of the Spanish prime minister in 1973 was also sentenced to a year in prison, although her sentence was suspended after a public outcry.

Don’t read too much into the into the post-outcry suspended sentence. Spain’s government is still busy ensuring satire, commentary, and anything else that might wander into the territory of offensive remains a criminal offense. Anything that has been walked back has been the result of public outcry. Amnesty National’s report “Tweet… if you dare” [PDF] notes hate speech and anti-terrorism speech law violations have resulted in 70 convictions over the past two years.

The student, (Cassandra Vera) who was arrested and sentenced for joking about a 45-year-old assassination, notes the government is still involved in acts of censorship that would be ridiculous if they weren’t backed by threats of jail time.

Vera expressed similar views after her sentence was overturned. She pointed to the recent censorship of a work at a Madrid art fair and the seizure, on a judge’s orders, of Fariña, a book about drug-trafficking in Galicia, as proof that something was seriously wrong with free speech in Spain.

“People shouldn’t have to be afraid of expressing their opinions,” she told the Guardian. “What happened with Valtonyc and Fariña and the art exhibition showed that freedom of expression is under serious attack. I think freedom of expression has been dealt an almost fatal blow in Spain.”

Amnesty International is demanding the law be repealed. It has done little to deter acts of terrorism or successfully counter hate speech. Instead, it has been used to target dissidents, activists, and others who criticize the government. Whatever terrorism happens to be addressed under the law apparently only considers certain acts by domestic terrorists to be worthy of enforcement. Content and communications glorifying foreign terrorist groups is usually ignored by the government. As its report points out, the speech laws enacted by the Spanish government violate the rights of its citizens.

By using these laws to criminalize lawful expression, the Spanish authorities are disregarding international human rights law and standards. The impact of Article 578 is devastating to individuals – ranging from hefty fines, to lengthy periods of exclusion from the public sector, to prison sentences.

But even beyond these sanctions, such misuse of counter-terrorism provisions leads people to engage in self-censorship for fear that they may be targeted. The criminalization of such a wide range of expression has a general chilling effect and can create an environment where individuals are afraid of expressing unpopular views, or even making controversial jokes.

The report also notes several other European countries are also beginning to curtail the rights of their citizens in their quest to target hate speech and international terrorism. Germany’s hate speech law roll out has been an unmitigated disaster and other countries like France and Italy seem all too willing to join Spain and Germany in killing satire, parody, and content they just don’t agree with. All of this is being done under the heading of “public safety,” but in reality, the public is no safer and will develop an unhealthy fear of their own governments.

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Comments on “Spanish Hate/Anti-Terrorism Speech Laws Doing Little But Locking Up Comedians, Artists, And Dissidents”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Makes perfect, if twisted sense

To would-be dictators and tyrants the worst form of ‘terrorism’ is not inflicting deaths among the general public, it’s dissent, challenging or calling out those in power.

After all there’s millions of the unwashed masses and more always popping up, but criticizing the ruling class, those who ‘know better’ and are the country, well that threatens everyone(but especially those that really count), and is therefore far more serious a crime, one that needs to be nipped right in the bud and/or thrown in a cell.

Anonymous Coward says:

but aren’t all governments trying to do the same thing? stop as many as possible from saying anything/everything the government doesn’t like? making any excuse to turn the country in question into a dictatorship, where no one is allowed to have an opinion, to state an opinion, to have free speech, freedom or privacy? the planet is being turned into what the likes of Hitler tried to do but without using guns (at the moment!), one where the government rules everything, the people have nothing and can be jailed in an instance at a whim!! total planetary slavery is just around the corner!!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s only the case where people aren’t politically engaged. Most of us outsource democracy to our representatives instead of holding them to account for their actions. Imagine a world in which all politicians were kept on a short leash by their constituents.

As it is, they’re toeing the line for their campaign donors. There’s your problem, sort that out.

Fearing the government on principle doesn’t solve problems.

David says:

Working as expected.

It has done little to deter acts of terrorism or successfully counter hate speech. Instead, it has been used to target dissidents, activists, and others who criticize the government.

Actual terrorism will always be the exception, singular cases. Otherwise it stops being terrorism and starts being civil war, a brutal normality.

So any law addressing terrorism in particular can only address precursors rather than terrorism itself (which is effectively dealt with using less specific laws) if it is supposed to have a noticeable effect.

"Dissidents, activists, and others who criticize the government." are precursors. That’s particularly relevant for Spain which is under pressure from various separatist political movements driven by dissent with a central Castilian government.

So yes, the laws are applied according to the intent and purpose they have been drafted for. Which makes obvious that any measures specifically drafted for dealing with terrorism at a different level than the crimes committed in the name of terrorism itself are very likely to address any kind of serious criticism against the powers that be.

Which is actually water on the mills of opposition up to the level of senseless terrorism.

If you outlaw criticism, the only people uttering it will be criminals.

David says:

Re: Re: Working as expected.

precursors … yeah, pre-crime is still their wet dream right?

Why wouldn’t it always be? You don’t want to wait until the damage (or actual crime) is done, and jailing on pre-crime is much faster (and a sell much better matching government periods) than waiting decades for the unreliable harvest of comprehensive education.

Anonymous Coward says:

So lovely...

to see the government people asked to protect them oppressing them instead.

I hate to say this, but Spain is just ANOTHER walking example of comeuppance for humans. This is what we constantly do to ourselves in the pursuit of “security”.

When the government drives a dagger in our backs, it is only because we gave it to them! History is repeating itself, people have grown tired of peace and have foolishly forgotten the price of liberty and refuse to pay the tab.

You either pay the tab, or become the currency!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So lovely...


but I do major in watching humans constantly sabotage themselves.

People will literally jump off a cliff and bitch at all the others falling with them that they are falling and expect someone else to fix the problem without doing anything about it themselves.

By the time everyone hits the bottom they have banded together to do only one thing… Curse not the ones that made them perish, but those they expected to save them!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So lovely...


Okay… so every drove off the cliff and landed in the junk yard below honking at each other on the way down!

Humans are not so complex. Individuals, yes the individual is indeed complex… but humans collectively? No. There is a reason they call it the “mob mentality” and why humans naturally form “groups” and follow the hive mind even when it not to their actual benefit.

Go ahead step out of line… see what you get!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 So lovely...

Not everyone, just most. The failure to understand that is what keeps this problem going.

Just take this exchange for example. We are in the middle of fussing about well understood human nature as though people are prone to resisting tyranny when they are in fact prone to just accept it. Government knows this, and they know that putting a boot on the back of everyone necks is easy to do, so long as they slowly approach you to do it.

It’s only when it comes rushing at us do we choose to defend.

I guarantee that you would let me enslave your family as long as I promised to save them from someone that would destroy them. Government will use you against them and them against you, it will work, and it will work amazingly well!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So lovely...

Yep and american children have been co-oped into the gov’t needs to protect me too movement, to their own detriment by
adults unwilling to have the balls to take their own protection into their own hands .
They are basically laying the bricks for their own gas chambers and are willfully marching right into them .

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So lovely...

Why do you think the government need to protect the meetoo movement and from whom? Is this protection over and above what a typical citizen would be afforded? In what way?

So, I guess you are one of those gun toting racist misogynistic blabber mouths I keep hearing about. Did the government fill all those FEMA camps in Texas during Jade Helm? That must be where the gas chambers are being built.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: So lovely...

Here’s a dirty secret: anarchy ==> tyranny. How? First they collapse the institutions of government in the name of ending tyranny. In the vacuum that ensues power brokers move in promising to put an end to the chaos. Result: tyranny. See Russian history post Revolution for details, comrades.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So lovely...

We don’t even need to go back so far in time to see examples of this process. After the US invaded and conquered Iraq and forcibly dismantled all government entities, including military and police, the predictable chaos and crime wave that resulted paved the way to the people accepting rule that was in many ways even more repressive and incompetent than the previous government.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Finally a sensible comment on the subject. We the people confirm the authority of the government via the democratic process. It’s not enough to vote for the candidate you hope will effect the change you want, you need to take part in campaigns on the issues you’re interested in. People power works, you’ve just got to keep the pressure on.

For many of us, it’s too much bother but I don’t think giving up and resigning ourselves to a crap status quo is the answer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In theory, yes. However, “the vote” has been manipulated beyond recognition and certainly is not what many refer to as a democratic process, it’s more like an auction.

In addition, I do not recall being afforded a vote upon whether the big banks and wallstreet types should screw the world economy for their own benefit. I did not get to vote upon whether the perpetrators should be prosecuted.

I hear that everyone is lazy and this explains the shit situation of today but this simply does not add up. There were plenty of people out in the streets expressing their desires for less murdering of children. Plenty of folk doing lots of stuff is very encouraging until they get tossed in jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

Pro-tips for Techdirt Zombie Killers (TM):

#1: This gets latest, starting on ALL over a million comments:

#2: The lite mode lets see all comments, though apparently loses useful gravatar so can’t tell among the many ACs, ALSO, sets a cookie so you’re stuck in that mode:

#3 Most important: don’t take this site seriously! It’s just entertainment, like pro-wrestling.

Anonymous Coward says:

the inevitable result of our own complacency

“It’s gotten so bad Amnesty International — an entity that usually spends its time decrying the acts of dictators and brutal authoritarians — has felt compelled to speak up about Spain’s terrible speech laws.”

Amnesty International is a huge hypocrite. They have no problem about Germany jailing people for years for making stupid Nazi salutes, or for Austria handing down long prison sentences for history professors who disagree with the official version of WWII history.

Amnesty International fully supported the arrests and lengthy imprisonments of people like David Irving, Ernst Zundel, Robert Faurisson, and many more ant-PC dissidents whose only crime was writing things that offended people.

Of course many of you believe that anyone who thinks kooky things like the Holocaust being untrue are haters, bigots, and nazis who deserves to be silenced by whatever means necessary. The problem is that when we start locking up “very bad” people for their thoughts, it grows to include “less bad” people, and then we eventually will start locking up many good people for their speech.

It’s a slow insidious process, and it’s ironic that we’re only just now starting to demand free speech, a universal ideal whose repression in 1st world countries has been slowly growing and expanding and becoming entrenched for many years, when suddenly we wake up and realize that it’s not just “them” who are going to jail for their speech — but “us.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: the inevitable result of our own complacency

Lets put you to the test?

Should citizens have the right to publish classified information or state secrets to the press?
Should citizens have the right call other citizens any name they want?
Should citizens have the right to carry weapons to use as they see fit?
Would you STOP a police officer from arresting someone you KNOW to be innocent but all KNOW will be unfairly prosecuted?

Tell us? How far will YOU go to secure liberty?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 the inevitable result of our own complacency

You scream about it any and every time you post.

You complain about crybabies, but every time an article comes up you’re running ahead of the race crowing about the fact that are crybabies. Which nobody ever denied, but keep strutting around like you’ve discovered penicillin or something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 the inevitable result of our own complacency

Not sure how that relates to the prior post with the claim “People are simply afraid of liberty.”

Perhaps I underestimated the scope of your “liberty” usage.

It is generally accepted that one is not allowed (or has been given the liberty) to do anything that infringes upon the rights of others. Your rights end where mine begin is a common phrase that many do not understand or think is correct.

Are you one of those sovCit types?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 the inevitable result of our own complacency

No, I am independent, I am closer to the founder type.

and I agree with your statement that liberty ends when another’s rights are infringed.

The problem is that most people think that their fears should trump my liberty. Hence the “fear of liberty” comment.

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

~James Madison

This quote echoes what I say. It is the fear of the cowards of every nation that politicians will latch onto to justify their power grabs. Just like another post in this thread that said the politicians themselves were terrorists for using terror to goad people to agree with their politics.

I can assure you that the vast majority of people would run instead of stand and fight if a shooter showed up. If you don’t believe it, just watch all of the video of people running, running, and still running away from danger rather than risking their lives to stop it. Not only that, their fear of collateral damage from people willing to stand and fight often time lead to laws the turn people into eternal victims.

Politicians LOVE victims. They can be used to justify anything, and the more of them you have the easier it is to enact tyranical laws… just like DHS/TSA after 9/11.

—Not sure how that relates to the prior post with the claim “People are simply afraid of liberty.”—

Now you know how it relates!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 the inevitable result of our own complacency

“The problem is that most people think that their fears should trump my liberty. Hence the “fear of liberty” comment.”

Would that “liberty” to which you refer include things like not making a cake, renting only to whites and being tough on crime … that sort of thing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 the inevitable result of our own complacency

Be fucking real .
Liberty is the right for your little piss filled life to be taken by someone else because your too scared to defend it AND your not allowed to have your fear impend my right to legally carry a firearm to defend myself while you cower in a corner crying for someone else to protect you .

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: the inevitable result of our own complacency

Holocaust deniers are the scum of the Earth.

Nevertheless, outside of Israel, in no country are they more isolated and powerless than in the USA, where Holocaust denial is legal. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Antisemites in Europe are not shamed into reexamining their views by bans on Holocaust denial. Instead, they choose to believe that such bans merely reflect political muscle, and seek to employ their own political muscle to ban speech they don’t like.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problems with not cleaning house

I personally blame the behavior post Spanish Civil War and dictatorship. They were never held responsible for their crimes so they try to do it again whenever they can get away with it. Not cleaning house emboldened them to do this shit. Reminds me of the criminalization of ACAB and going after a woman with a “All Cats Are Beautiful” shirt. The pigs there really proved the point of “All Cops Are Bastards” by not just enforcing laws criminalizing it but jumping the gun at anything that looks like it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Legally Spain MUST immediately be suspended by the European Parliament pending a MAXIMUM 3month investigation on whether Spain is to be permanently removed.

But the EU is sitting on it’s ass ignoring one of it’s own most primary rules, that joined states must BE and STAY a democracy. WHich spain isn’t, because criticizing the government is illegal.

And criticism is defined now as “not voting for them”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, if that was the case, then the whole EU would fall apart.

For starters, because it ain’t that easy to remove a country from the EU.

Also, every EU Member State has their own internal rules regarding speech. It’s one of the things that isn’t being harmonized by the EU (Remember why ACTA had to be a mixed treaty and not ratified only by the EU? Because it had provisions regarding criminal procedures that aren’t in the scope of the EU).

On the other hand, remember that Spain isn’t the only one that does this in some degree, and I’m talking about countries like Germany or France.

Many of other countries do have lese majeste provisions, and they apply them to varied degrees:

Terrorism, hate speech and others are pretty common in the EU.

And there is also the fact that removing Spain from the EU would have a big impact on EU economy. In fact, we still aren’t out of the Brexit fallout (wait when the UK materializes it) and removing Spain forcefully might have worse effects.

In the end, the brits wanted out of the EU, so they’ll have to come to an agreement. If you remove a country forcefully, it’s harder to hammer an agreement and to get back the debt with it.

Only if it was a VERY obvious case of dictatorship (like a coup d’etat) you might have enough grounds to remove a country in a flashy way.

While such actions are illegal, and that’s why Spain will have to follow the ECHR ruling (give back the fine imposed), that doesn’t mean it has to change their laws (the judiciary has no power to force the legislative to change a law, save in cases covered by the Constitution, like the Constitutional Court or maybe the EUCJ labelling that law as against EU Law).

So, in the eyes of the law, Spain is a democratic country, as it has the proper institutions to keep a control of it (Constitutional Court, EUCJ, ECHR…) and follows their rulings (even if to the letter and using loopholes).

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Spain is a perfect country or whatever. It isn’t. But no, the EU won’t remove Spain from the EU.

At best, as said above, you can expect an EUCJ ruling (and that’s only if the case is brought to them).

Still, what the ECHR has brought into the table is grounds for:
– A national judge to bring the case to the EUCJ.
– Grounds for the EUCJ to declare that article as contrary to the EU Law.

mik says:

Good old lese-majeste. Bureaucracies around the world are bringing this gem of monarchic detritus back in full force. It all started once law enforcement agencies were hailed as heroes instead of the public servants they are.
Now we have actual bureaucrats demanding they be treated like royalty and the politicians that the majority of brain dead dumbasses vote in because they are scared of practically everything go along with because they know power when they snort it

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I suppose it depends upon what is considered to be defense. Some people think that attacking those you dislike is a good defense even when said dislike is not warranted but is simply some bigoted personality fault.

In such situations, why should you be afforded what you consider to be a defense when others claim it is murder? Why do you think you are under attack when it is plainly clear to not be the case? What are they doing to you?

Do you think you are Judge Dredd? If so why do you think this? Do you try to talk like Sylvester Stallone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh Please there you are putting your own fears into it .
So your line thinking goes
“I’m walking down the street and don’t like that hat the person is wearing So I attack the hat and remove it “
That is the WAY YOU THINK not me .
So You are one who is afraid and lashing out before anyone else does anything to you .
So you are operating on fear alone .
So yes if I’m walking down the street wearing the funny hat you don’t like and you attack me to remove it of course It’s my right to defend against it .
If on the other hand you kept your fear of my funny hat to yourself and just walked on by , I would have walked on by oblivious to your fears and hence nothing would have occurred .
It’s you who are minority report projecting .
It’s your acting out of irrational fear that motivates you while I only react to an actual threat .

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Lashing out ?
Please take your head out of your arse and join the real world , not the land of unicorns and fairy dust you live in
Your world revolves around how you wish it were not how it is .
I hope you are never attacked by a predator because clearly you are unprepared to defend yourself and rather believe that it won’t , can’t, ever happen to you till it does .
Just because it’s never happened to you doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen .
You must be like the politicians who don’t believe in gay rights till they find out their child is gay , then they’re all for it .
Unfortunately by the time you get it it’s usually too late .

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