No change to Spain’s ‘gag law’, as parties fail to find common ground on reforms

AN ATTEMPT by the Spanish government to reform the country’s so-called ‘gag law’ failed this week, after the ruling Socialist Party and junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos were unable to secure the support of other parties needed to make the changes. 

The Catalan Republican Left and EH Bildu announced that they would vote against the planned changes to the legislation, if these did not include a ban on the use of rubber bullets by the police, among other demands. 

The Socialists and Unidas Podemos govern in a minority in the Congress of Deputies, meaning that they need the support of other groups in order to pass legislation. 

The ‘gag law’, or the Public Safety Law to give it its real name, was passed in 2015 by the conservative Popular Party (PP) in a bid to crack down on freedom of speech and protest, at a time when the government was facing serious social unrest in the form of anti-austerity protests. 

The law made it illegal for citizens to take pictures of police officers while engaged in their duties, while protests near Congress or other government buildings were subject to fines of up to €600,000.

Showing a lack of respect to or disobedience of the police also became an offence under the law. 

It was back in 2021 that the Spanish government first presented reforms to the law. These included changes to the rules covering when and how citizens could photograph officers of the law, a reduction in the fines that can be levied on citizens, and a reduction in the punishment for anyone caught growing marijuana at home. 

The failure of the parties to agree on the changes, however, means that for now the ‘gag law’ will remain as it is when introduced by the PP back in 2015. 

Civil Guard unions and other associations were quick to applaud the situation, having previously organised protests against the planned changes. 

NGOs such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace, meanwhile, released statements calling the development ‘terrible news’.

The PP also welcomed the news and called the attempts to reform the legislation a ‘botch job’.

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