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NGO coalition calls attention to Spain's free expression violations

Urges U.N. Human Rights Committee to consider them as part of periodic review

The International Press Institute (IPI) has joined with eight other press freedom organisations to submit a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Committee listing concerns to be considered during Spain's sixth country review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The review process is generally conducted every four years, when members of the U.N. Human Rights Committee analyse state parties' implementation of the International Covenant. Other partners to IPI's submission include Access Info Europe in Madrid, Reporters Without Borders International, Reporters Without Borders Spain, AMARC Europe, Free Expression Associates, the European Federation of Journalists, Article 19 and WAN-IFRA.

The joint submission (available in English and Spanish) emphasises concerns in three areas: defamation, regulation of the audiovisual sector and access to information.

Spanish law currently allows the prosecution of defamation as a criminal offence that can result in imprisonment, and the submission notes that this falls short of international standards on freedom of expression. Furthermore, the submission points out, the regulation of civil liability fails to offer clear defences, including truth, good faith and honest opinion.

The joint submission also highlights the fact that Spain lacks a dedicated independent regulatory body for the broadcast media and that most responsibilities in this area have been attributed to a national “super-regulator”, covering various additional sectors, whose members are appointed directly by the government, with no consultation from Parliament.

Finally, the submission raises concerns about Spain's failure to recognise the right to access information, in clear breach of U.N. Human Rights Committee's recommendations.

In view of these concerns, the NGO coalition stated in closing its letter: “The undersigned believe both that Spain is currently in breach of its obligations under the ICCPR to ensure that the domestic legal framework guarantees the rights set out in the Covenant, and that the Law on Transparency, Access to Information, and Good Governance should be strengthened.”

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