In a move sure to send shivers down the spines of activists and civil liberties advocates everywhere, the Spanish government is taking steps to prohibit the filming and photographing of on-duty police and security forces, the New York Times reports. Described by Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria as a reaction to the recent shocking clashes between police and demonstrators – such as the Madrid anti-austerity actions – this ban is necessary, they claim, to strike a balance "between citizens' right to protest" and the need "to uphold the integrity of state security forces."
The deputy prime minister made his announcement a day after Spain's director general of police, Ignacio Cosido, said that said that draft legislation for such a ban was already in the works.
This position is in direct conflict with European laws governing the freedom of the press and human rights and an affront to all the dedicated citizen journalists putting themselves in harm's way in the service of transparency. The proposed new legislation also makes it illegal to disseminate photos and videos of security forces over social networking sites such as Facebook.
Angel Casana, a lead writer for the national newspaper El Mundo, weighed in on the plan via an online editorial: "If this proposal goes ahead, it is going to be impossible to know about events as they occur on the streets just at a time when streets are at boiling point due to the dire economic situation of many families."
Video livestreamers, in particular, have reason to worry that they will be prohibited from doing their work. There already exists a vast amount of video evidence collected by citizen journalists across Spain that documents indiscriminate police violence during protests that resulted in grave injuries against people who were exercising their constitutionally protected right of political expression.
These streams are not only reliable news footage, but also contribute to historical record of our time and therefore belong not only to Spain, but to the entire world. The idea that a government feels it has to erase part of it's record to ensure it's own safety indicates an awareness that its actions, if documented, will provoke public disapproval and increase dissent.
Igancio Cosido specified that the new rule would prohibit "the recruitment, reproduction or processing of images, sounds or information of members of the security forces in the exercise of its functions as may endanger their life". If they really believe that the routine actions of police officers in dealing with protesters would evoke such an extreme reaction by the general viewing public, perhaps they should review their use of tactics instead of trying to suffocate the evidence. Another world is possible.
Photograph: Chema Moya/EPA