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Could Europe's human rights court kill off Spain's 'anti-protest' law?

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Could Europe's human rights court kill off Spain's 'anti-protest' law?
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
10:13 CET+01:00
A group of journalists are calling on the EU's top court to quash Spain's controversial 'gag law', claiming it attacks freedom of speech and information.

The controversial Citizen Security Law was passed by the ruling Popular Party (PP) and came into force in July to fierce protests both in Spain and internationally, with critics arguing the law breaches freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest.

The ten most repressive points of Spain's 'gag law' 

Under the law, the vague crime of "disrespecting a police officer"  can see people slapped with a €600 ($657) fine while a fine of up to €600,000 ($638,000) can be handed out to someone staging an “unauthorized protest”.

The law also made it an offence to photograph a police officer, which photojournalists argue severely impacts their ability to do their job; photographers have captured police abuse during protests which will now, they argue, go undocumented.

The platform Defender a quien defiende has launched a triple lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg calling for the immediate repeal of the law, which, the group argues, attacks freedom of information.

The group, made up of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers, argues that the gag law restricts journalists and photographers from imparting and receiving information. 

"They are particularly affected since the law jeopardizes their main function: to report on events of public relevance," argues the lawsuit.

"If Madrid won't listen to us, we'll go to Strasbourg!" tweeted  member of the group that has brought the lawsuit.

Photojournalists are "obliged by police to stop filming or photographing police actions for fear of being penalized," the lawsuit claims.

The main objective of the lawsuit, according to the group, is to preserve freedom of expression, freedom of information and the right to protest, which have been "violated" by the Spanish government.

It is a contentious issue in the run up to Spain’s general election on December 20th; the three opposition parties - the Socialists, Ciudadanos and Podemos - have promised to repeal the law if they win the election.

One of the first offenders caught under the new 'gag law' was a man who was fined €600 for calling police 'slackers' on social media. 

In another controversial incident, a woman was fined €800 for taking a photograph of a police car illegally parked in a disabled parking space. That fine was later scrapped. 

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