Basque editor praised for press freedom role

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Basque editor praised for press freedom role
Gorka Landáburu, who was the victim of an Eta attack, pictured in his office in 2005. photo: Rafa Rivas / AFP

A Basque journalist has been chosen as the only Spaniard to be honoured on a Reporters Without Borders list of 'information heroes' who have been an inspiration to those aspiring to freedom.


Gorka Landáburu, the 63-year-old editor of the Madrid-based news weekly Cambio 16 was recognized among the "100 Information Heroes" as a journalist who survived a terrorist attack by Basque separatist group Eta.

Talking to The Local he described how "overwhelmed and immensely proud" he was to appear on the list, which was published to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd.

It honours a wide range of journalists and bloggers who "constantly sacrifice their safety and sometimes their lives to their vocation", paying tribute to men and women ages 25-75 from 65 countries.

"These 'information heroes' are a source of inspiration to all men and women who aspire to freedom," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. "Without their determination and the determination of all those like them, it would be simply impossible to extend the domain of freedom."

This is Landáburu’s story:

On May 15th, 2001 he received a package at his home in Zarauz, a town in Spain’s northern Basque Country. It appeared to have been sent by a business association. When he opened it, 150 grams of Titadine, a compressed dynamite used in mining and by the Basque armed separatist group ETA for its bombs, exploded in his face. 

He will bear the marks for the rest of his life. In its communiqué claiming the attack, Eta called him a "txakurra de la pluma,"meaning a dog in the service of the Spanish government.

When those responsible were tried ten years later, Landáburu testified in court: "I am a journalist. You destroyed my hands. My left eye no longer sees anything. Scars cover my body. But you failed because you did not cut my tongue out."

He told The Local that Euskadi – the Basque Country – was "experiencing a new era since Eta called a ceasefire and that although the group is not yet fully dissolved, I believe that we are on the path that will lead to coexistence."

However he called for the government of Mariano Rajoy to work harder to resolve the issue definitively. "All the steps needed to heal the wounds cannot be taken without remembering, justice and reparation," he said.

But although Eta may not be powerful force in today’s Spain, he warned of other issues curbing the freedom of the press.

"The fundamental problem today is insecurity, something experienced by the majority of journalists," explained Landáburu.

"The crisis has only exacerbated our problems," he said. "The mass media is controlled at every turn according to interests that have little to do with the independence of journalism, but rather make us dependent in way that does not promote freedom of speech."

"The influence of powerful banks is regrettable, they are gaining more and more influence on the boards of large media groups," he said.

But he ended on a more positive note and called for further global action to be taken to ensure journalistic freedoms. "It is not the time to throw in the towel just yet," he said.  "We must fight to demand a more pluralistic, more independent and freer media.

"It is difficult but not yet impossible to save our profession," he said.



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