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Fischer: Gagged with the law

BY CHRISTIAN FISCHER | JULY 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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Just last week, a new censorship law went into effect in Spain that has much of its citizens up in arms. Referred to as the “gag” law, its main purpose is to target “illegal downloading” and repeated access of websites that “allegedly promote terrorism and violent protest.”

With this government tactic to monitor Internet use as well as repress freedoms of speech, some argue that this is just another “step backward toward dictatorship.” The Spanish government contends that the gag law protects the rights of the majority; however, its agenda is questionable.

The preamble of the law states that it is there to “ensure an environment of coexistence … by eliminating violence and removing the obstacles.” Of course, anyone who opposes acquiescence “is outside the rule of law.”

According to the New York Times, people can be fined up to $700 for insulting an officer, more than $33,000 for documenting and promulgating images of police officers, and more than $664,000 for involvement in unauthorized protest outside of government buildings (currency-exchange rates accounted for).

Because of this, many fear this is just another government ploy toward political gain. Now in effect, personal freedom of speech is not only challenged, so is protesting such overbearing laws as well as prevention toward future acts of brutality.

Over the years, video cameras have grown increasingly popular in political demonstrations. With social media standing as an outlet for personal broadcast, evidence of government and police brutality have become publicly available.

With the gag law in effect, people will no longer have the luxury of uploading and accessing these videos. Amnesty International said the publication of unauthorized personal images could potentially “endanger personal or family-security agents” or even go so far as to put the success of an operation at risk.

With the police granted the ability to fine those who deny resistance during public meetings and protest, the law suddenly stands as a “direct threat” to freedom of speech in Spain. Nonetheless, Spaniards have not backed down.

Days after the law was put into effect, July 1, people staged a protest in front of Parliament, carrying signs speaking out against fascism while others sat silently, with their mouths covered in tape.

This is not the first time Spain has put restrictions on freedom of speech. Earlier this year, the country passed a copyright law that would impose fees for media outlets such as Google News in an attempt to protect its print-media industry.

The Guardian says the law, commonly referred to as the “Google Tax,” requires those posting links of news articles to pay a fee to the organization representing Spanish newspapers.

“The law opens the possibility for the state to sabotage any online content simply using fear,” lawyer Carols Sanchez Almeida told Gizmodo.

With the issue of censorship rising in Spain, I can’t help but wonder how surrounding bureaucracies are reacting. Here in the United States, viral videos that showcase police brutality have become widespread and an important aspect of the Fourth Estate narrative. With such a divide remaining, the dissociation of the Spanish Parliament and its people will become a detriment to future narrative of the nation amid a European Union crisis.


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