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Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Expression launched in Spain

Journalists, lawyers, academics, activists and consumer advocates met in Madrid. Over 20 groups and individuals have officially joined the Platform

from the Internationl Press Institute

MADRID, Dec 3, 2014 – A diverse group of journalists, activists lawyers, academics, activists and consumer advocates converged yesterday in downtown Madrid for the official launch of the Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Expression (Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información), a new civil-society coalition that observers hope will fill an advocacy and monitoring gap in Spain.

Making reference to a period of “profound change” in the country due to the current economic crisis, Platform President Virginia P. Alonso, deputy editor of 20 Minutos, described the initiative as a response to “efforts to curb new forms of protest and to put a stop to freedom of expression through the approval of restrictive laws and norms”.

A primary aim of the Platform, she told the International Press Institute (IPI), would be to “catalogue attempts to curtail freedom of expression and information and disseminate them, so they become present in the collective consciousness”.

Over 20 groups and individuals have officially joined the Platform, including the Madrid College of Lawyers, which also hosted Tuesday’s event. Other members include the Progressive Union of Prosecutors, the Federation of Journalist Syndicates (FeSP), the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) and the newspapers and 20 Minutos.

Speaking at the launch, Platform Secretary General Yolanda Quintana emphasised the plurality of entities taking part. “It is not just journalists and media outlets that can be the victims of attacks against freedom of expression,” she said.

Panellists broached a wide range of topics considered to threaten freedom of expression in Spain, including a pending “public safety” bill, popularly known as the Ley mordaza, that opponents fear would criminalise legitimate acts of protest; the abuse of defamation and insult laws; lack of transparency in public administration and what some consider to be a “pseudo” transparency taking effect this month; the abuse of government advertising; and the weight of media ownership, particularly in a time of economic crisis.

The launch of the platform coincides with the first international press freedom mission to Spain, taking place this week and led by IPI. Mission participants, including representatives from Access Info Europe, Reporters without Borders (RSF), the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), have been meeting with a wide variety of stakeholders in Madrid and Barcelona to understand current, key challenges to freedom of expression.

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