Democracy & Justice


Civicus Monitor

by LibertiesEU


General elections

On 23rd July 2023, general elections took place in Spain. None of Spain's major political parties managed to secure an outright majority. The centre-right People’s Party (PP) came out ahead, winning 136 seats, while the incumbent Socialist Party (PSOE) secured 122 seats. The far-right Vox performed worse than in the 2019 election, winning only 33 seats, and the left-wing Sumar coalition acquired 31 seats. Prior to the election, PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo had indicated his willingness to form a coalition government with Vox. However, both parties’ combined result fell short of the 176 seats required to gain control of the Spanish parliament.

After the election, Núñez Feijóo attempted to establish a government but was unsuccessful in garnering the necessary majority support from the Spanish parliament. On 3rd October 2023, Spanish King Felipe VI nominated caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, leader of the PSOE, to present his candidacy to Parliament in an attempt to form a coalition government with Sumar.

Sánchez proposes Basque, Catalan and Galician be recognised as official EU languages

On the 17th of August 2023, international media reported that acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had formally requested the recognition of Basque, Catalan, and Galician as official languages of the EU. This move is perceived as an attempt to secure the backing of Catalan separatists in Spain's closely divided parliament following the inconclusive national election in July. While Sánchez's proposal is aimed at appeasing Catalan separatists, achieving EU endorsement for these languages would necessitate unanimous agreement from the Council and could potentially raise concerns about the cost and resources required for translation services.

However, this gesture has proven insufficient in gaining votes. On 5th September 2023, separatist leader Carles Puigdemont issued an ultimatum to Pedro Sánchez: either pardon all those involved in the Catalan independence movement or risk losing his position of power.

On 19th September 2023, Spain's lower house of parliament made a historic decision by allowing the use of regional languages, such as Catalan, Basque, and Galician, during its proceedings. This change, met with protests from conservative lawmakers, requires legislators to use earphones for live translation into Spanish. The reform was approved with 176 votes in favour, 169 against, and two abstentions. It also resulted from Sanchez’s efforts to gain support from Catalan separatist parties for an investiture vote.


Protests over non-consensual kiss at Women’s World Cup

In a powerful demonstration of solidarity against sexism, hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Madrid on 28th August 2023, gathering in support of Jenni Hermoso. The streets were awash with purple, a colour symbolising International Women’s Day, illustrating their unity in the fight against sexism. They held signs that read “It’s not a peck, it’s assault.”

This gathering was a response to an incident on 20th August 2023, during Spain's Women's World Cup victory celebration, when Luis Rubiales, then-president of Spain's soccer federation, kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent. This act ignited public outrage. Initially, Rubiales denied any wrongdoing, but later issued an apology. On 25th August 2023, he refused to resign, leading to protests calling for his departure. Ultimately, on 11th September 2023, Rubiales resigned from his position.

Catalonians take to the streets for Diada Day

On 11th September 2023, Catalonia’s National Day, thousands of Catalan independence supporters gathered in central Barcelona, waving “Estelada” flags and advocating for the region’s separation from Spain. While this year's turnout was lower than in previous years, with police estimating 115,000 participants and organisers claiming 800,000, the independence movement remains influential. Catalonia’s main parties are currently in discussions with Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to form a new Spanish government, aiming to reinvigorate their cause ahead of the 2025 regional elections. The leaders are anticipating amnesty for those who took part in a failed push for independence in 2017, in return for their support for Sánchez as Prime Minister.

March against granting amnesty to Catalan separatists

On the 24th of September 2023, tens of thousands of Spaniards gathered in Madrid to protest against Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's potential plans to grant amnesty to Catalan separatists in exchange for political support. The rally, attended by supporters of the opposition conservative People's Party (PP), drew an estimated 40,000 participants.

Sanchez is seeking support from Carles Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya party, which controls seven parliamentary seats. Puigdemont has made dropping legal action against fellow separatists a condition for his party's support for Sanchez in forming a government.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the PP, which won the most votes in July, strongly opposes granting amnesty to those involved in the 2017 Catalonia independence referendum, which was ruled illegal by the courts. Feijóo argued that ending criminal cases against separatists would be tantamount to pardoning "coup plotters."


Reporters Without Borders concerned about press freedom during election campaign

On 6th July 2023, as Spain's parliamentary election campaign kicked off, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the far-right party Vox to lift the bans it had imposed on specific media and journalists over the past four years, and to abide by Spanish law, which upholds press freedom. Vox had previously banned certain media from its events during the 2019 parliamentary elections and has since extended these restrictions, excluding more media outlets, journalists, and associations, while also disparaging and insulting them on social media. Spain's Supreme Court previously determined that Vox's exclusions during the previous election campaign were based on considering certain media as hostile, which violated transparency and objectivity guarantees. RSF urged Vox to uphold press freedom and the principles enshrined in Spain's constitution.

Two media outlets denied entry to far-right party’s headquarters during election night

On 23rd July 2023, Vox refused entry to journalists from El País and Cadena Sur at their headquarters. These two media outlets were covering the general election and had requested access to the building. Vox claimed they couldn't accommodate more journalists in their pressroom, but this contradicted a court ruling that ensures equal access for all journalists. In fact, El País later reported that there was still plenty of space available in the room.

After nearly four hours of waiting outside the headquarters, the El País journalist was only allowed in when the Central Electoral Board (JEC) issued a resolution demanding their immediate entry, in response to a complaint filed by El País. The Cadena Sur journalist was initially granted access after the JEC resolution, but was later ejected when the party realised that the resolution didn't explicitly apply to her as well.

Man stabs journalist for reporting on his previous conviction

On 14th July 2023, a man named Andrés de Vicente Fuentes forcibly entered the La Voz de Galicia office in Pontevedra, Lerez, and stabbed editor Alfredo López Penide. The journalist required 10 stitches for injuries on his hand and arm and received treatment for a puncture wound to the chest. He suffered significant blood loss and underwent further treatment at a nearby hospital. The attack followed a recent article from La Voz de Galicia that mentioned López Penide’s previous conviction for an incident in 2020 when he attacked then-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Fuentes vandalized various pieces of newsroom equipment and verbally abused several members of the staff. He caused substantial damage to the facilities, furnishings, and multiple computers before the police arrived. He was subsequently detained by six police officers and taken to the Psychiatric Unit at the Complexo Hospitalario de Pontevedra. Various media outlets and regional journalist groups have expressed support for the injured journalist and called for additional security measures to safeguard journalists in the future.

Harassment and intimidation against journalists

Several other incidents against media workers in Spain were reported on the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom’s platform, Mapping Media Freedom. On 25th July 2023, exiled Cuban journalist Abraham Jiménez Enoa was threatened in Barcelona by an unidentified man with a Cuban accent. On 23rd July 2023, as France 24 journalist Elise Gazengel was reporting from the election night event at the Madrid headquarters of the right-wing People’s Party, a party supporter began to harass her during the live broadcast. On 20th July 2023, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, president and main shareholder of Canarian football club Unión Deportiva Las Palmas (UD), threatened and insulted newspaper Diario AS’s Gran Canaria correspondent Pablo Checa during a phone call. On 11th July 2023, Adrián Arnau, a reporter for the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, shared on Twitter that he and his colleagues faced multiple physical and verbal assaults while covering the Sanfermines 2023 in Pamplona.

Spanish journalists victorious after Black Wednesday protests

For months, daily press workers have been donning black attire every Wednesday to protest their diminishing salaries and to demand improved working conditions. This movement commenced in April 2023, when employees from Unidad Editorial, Prisa, and Vocento wore black and walked out of their newsrooms around noon in protest. The initiative then spread to workers in other media outlets. On 5th July 2023, the council of El País finally reached an agreement that would allow for the updating of workers’ salaries after a 12-year pay freeze. This strategic agreement prematurely put an end to further strikes that were planned for 7th and 10th July 2023. Similar agreements were reached in the councils of El Mundo and Expansión.

While these newsrooms have achieved success through the "Black Wednesdays" protests advocating for better pay and working conditions, challenges persist in others. Workers at El Periódico de Catalunya in Barcelona continue to protest due to resource shortages, highlighting the importance of adequate resources for quality journalism. In Málaga, journalists and staff at Diario Sur, part of the Vocento media group, are calling for pay raises and improved working conditions after enduring frozen salaries for 12 years.

These protests have garnered support from organisations such as the Association of Journalists in Spain (UGT) and the Federation of Journalists' Trade Unions (FeSP). The International and European Federations of Journalists also stood in solidarity with the protests.

Spain’s cultural sector unites against far-right censorship

In July 2023, a burgeoning online cultural movement emerged in Spain, aimed at protesting the escalating censorship of the arts in the country. Notably, filmmaker Pedro Almodovar has lent his support to the cause, and the hashtag #StopCensura has garnered over 19,000 followers on Instagram.

Protesters aimed to draw attention to recent efforts to stifle freedom of expression and silence LGBTQI+ and women's voices. In Santa Cruz de Bezana, the children’s film “Lightyear” was removed from the town’s cultural programme due to a scene depicting two women kissing. Towns governed by the far-right announced the removal of LGBTQI+ banners from public structures and the erasure of the term “gender-based violence”. Several cultural events were cancelled, including an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's “Orlando: A Biography,” which explores themes of gender transition, a Lope de Vega play featuring set pieces resembling a phallus and vulva, and a Pride concert that was disrupted by police when singer Rocío Saiz performed topless.

Censorship of photos during music festival

On 5th July 2023, the Cruïlla Festival accreditation team informed several photojournalists that all images of the American punk rock band The Offspring must receive approval from the band's social media team before publication. This requirement was communicated to journalists just two days before the band was scheduled to perform on 7th July 2023. In response to this practice, various journalistic unions have called on artists and their representation agencies to refrain from these types of practices, as they infringe upon the citizens’ right to freedom of information.

See the original article on Civicus Monitor.

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