Spanish Citizen Sentenced To Jail For Creating 'Unhealthy Humoristic Environment'

from the first-they-came-for-the-punchlines... dept

Spain is perfecting regulation no one asked for. The country's government is in the business of determining which jokes are funny… and which punchlines should be greeted with criminal charges.

A few years ago, jokes of the "too soon" variety were met with calls for social media censorship. The assassination of a member of the People's Party was met with the usual interactions: a mix of genuine condolences and mockery. The assassinated official wasn't universally loved, having voted herself a 13% pay raise while simultaneously supporting a 12% budget cut to programs she didn't care for.

Some social media reactions were terrible. Reactions from government officials were even worse. One official said social media users shouldn't be allowed to denigrate others. Another vowed to "clean up undesirable social media."

Flash-forward three years and a Spanish citizen is again dealing with government regulation of social media, as well as its idea of what is or isn't proper discourse. And, oddly enough, another assassination of a political figure is at the center of it, albeit one where adverse comments and jokes could not possibly be of the "too soon" variety. (via Reason)

When she posted jokes on Twitter about a 1973 assassination committed by Spain's Basque separatist group ETA, Cassandra Vera never for one moment thought they would land her a one-year jail sentence.

But last month, one of Spain's top criminal courts found the 21-year-old guilty of "justifying terrorism" and humiliating its victims - the latest in a series of such convictions for social media pranks that has the country divided, and partisans of free speech worried.

They ruined my life," Vera tweeted about the 13 posts about the 1973 murder of Luis Carrero Blanco, the prime minister and heir-apparent of dictator Francisco Franco who was killed in an ETA bomb attack that sent his car hurtling into the air.

Whether or not the jokes could be considered funny is up to the reader. But Spain's government -- using its terrorism concerns to increase its control of its citizens -- feels that tweets like Vera's should be held to a different standard. The government will let Spaniards know what's funny… after the fact. And, possibly, after sentencing.

The National Court's sentencing comments made it very clear it found Vera's blend of assassination imagery and space program mockery to be criminally unfunny.

The National Court that sentenced her, which specialises in terrorism cases, ruled that her jokes did not form part of a "healthy humoristic environment" and that her attitude was "disrespectful" and "humiliating."

There's nothing more devoid of humor than a government-ordained "healthy humoristic environment." Vera has been sentenced to a one-year prison term for failing to make the court laugh. She won't serve any actual jail time, which is a plus, but will find it much more difficult to move forward with her studies, as the criminal record prevents her from obtaining a scholarship.

Even the assassination victim's granddaughter thinks this sentence from the National Court goes too far. She sent a letter to El Pais, the most-read paper in Spain, stating she was dismayed Spanish social interaction had been reduced by the government to the point where free speech leads to jail sentences.

Not that her protest of Vera's sentencing is likely to change anything. The Spanish government has embraced the host of new powers it granted itself in response to terrorist attacks and widespread economic protests. The Spanish government is in the humor policing business -- which is quite fitting, considering its humorless police forces are in the business of shutting down any other non-joking speech the government doesn't like.


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