Spain's press freedom under fire in US media

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Steve Tallantyre - [email protected]
Spain's press freedom under fire in US media
Ramirez claims that his sacking is the result of reporting on corruption scandals that involve Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy. Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / FILES / AFP

Influential US newspaper The New York Times has reported the sacking of El Mundo editor Pedro J. Ramírez as "engineered retribution" by the Spanish government and compared press freedoms in Spain with those in China and Egypt.


In a feature published on Sunday, the newspaper interviewed the recently ousted Ramírez, who claimed that his dismissal was "a show of force by a government that wants to send a message to the whole media sector."

Ramírez went on to say that  it was an attempt "to use a time of clear economic weakness to force the media to be docile, servile and practice self-censorship."

The editor was sacked last week from the centre-right newspaper El Mundo which he founded 25 years ago.

In a comparison damning to Spain's international image, the NYT linked the incident with recent press interference by governments in China and Egypt.

It wrote: "Several governments of late have come under criticism by free press advocates. The top editor at Ming Pao, a newspaper in Hong Kong, was removed last month from his post by its owners, leading to complaints that his departure represented the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to subdue the territory’s independent media. Last week, prosecutors in Egypt filed criminal charges accusing 20 journalists for Al Jazeera television of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood."

The high-profile article will be particularly galling to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose recent trip to the United States to meet with President Obama was ignored by US media.

The sacking of Ramírez, in contrast, has been covered by many major international media outlets including Reuters.

El Mundo supported Spain's governing Popular Party (PP) in the last three election campaigns but Ramírez reportedly became unpopular with party bosses after reporting a series of corruption scandals in Spain, one of which involved current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy and other senior PP members have been accused of receiving illegal kickbacks by Luis Bárcenas, the former party treasurer, who is in prison awaiting trial for allegedly organising the payments and for evading tax.

The NYT reported that Rajoy had "addressed lawmakers and accused El Mundo in Parliament of manipulating information" and that he had "denounced 'a circle of libel' against his governing Popular Party."

"I had a good relationship with Rajoy until he came to power,” Ramírez told the newspaper.


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