With bloody bodies scattered on a pedestrian street in Barcelona after a man plowed a van into a crowd of people, killing at least 13, a Spanish police officer took the time to order a man with a camera away.
The cop, who was tending to one of the victims, had no expectation of privacy. At least according to American legal standards.
But under Spanish law, he could have arrested the man with the camera, who was showing the world the tragic and devastating aftermath of the terrorist attack, which
Fortunately, he did not, but will other cops also use the law to prevent citizens from recording what is now an international news story?
The Spanish government, which passed the law in 2015, refers to it as a Citizens Security Law, but critics refer to it as a “gag law.”
According to the New York Times:
Spain’s new public safety law — called “the gag law” by its critics — was approved in March by Parliament, where Mr. Rajoy’s Popular Party holds a majority. The party faces a stiff challenge in elections later this year. The law now comes into force, despite continued criticism from activists and opposition politicians.
Among other restrictions, the law forbids unauthorized gatherings around Parliament and other important buildings — a direct response to some of the anti-austerity protests held in Madrid, where dozens of people were injured in September 2012 when protesters encircled the Congress building.
The law also forbids the kind of amateur video footage that has increasingly been used to expose police tactics in the United States, and which last month showed police beating demonstrators in the Basque country. In addition, the law sets hefty fines for a range of offenses: €600 for insulting a police officer, as much as €30,000 for spreading damaging photos of police officers and €600,000 for taking part in an unauthorized protest outside Parliament and other sensitive locations.
While the law specifically addresses photography during protests, Spanish police have fined citizens for just taking photos of police in public in general.
Last year, a reporter was fined 601 Euros, which is about $705, a whopping amount in a country that has the second highest unemployment rate in Europe behind Greece.
According to the Associated Press:
A Basque magazine said Friday one of its photographers has been fined under Spain’s so-called “gag law” for posting photographs of police making an arrest.
Argia magazine said Axier Lopez was fined 601 euros ($680) for uploading photographs to his Twitter account last month of police arresting a woman who had failed to appear in court.
The magazine published part of the Interior Ministry notification that said the fine was for publishing photographs “without authorization” and putting the officers at risk because they could be identified publicly.
In 2015, a woman was fined 800 Euros for photographing an illegally parked car, according to the Guardian, which added that fines can reach 30,000 Euros.
A Spanish woman has been fined €800 (£570) under the country’s controversial new gagging law for posting a photograph of a police car parked illegally in a disabled bay.
The unnamed woman, a resident of Petrer in Alicante, south-east Spain, posted the photo on her Facebook page with the comment “Park where you bloody well please and you won’t even be fined”.
The police tracked her down within 48 hours and fined her.
The Citizens Security Law, popularly known as the gagging law and which came into force on 1 July, prohibits “the unauthorised use of images of police officers that might jeopardise their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations”.
Amnesty International condemned the law, saying that photographing police was vital in cases when excessive force had been used. Fines under this section of the law range from €600 to €30,000, which is more than $35,000.Fernando Portillo, a spokesman for the local police, said the officers had parked in the disabled bay because they had been called to deal with an incident of vandalism in a nearby park. A rapid response is essential if they are to catch the offenders “in flagranti”, he told local media, adding that in an emergency the police park where they can.
Asked how the photo had put the police at risk, he said the officers felt the woman had impugned their honour by posting the picture and referred the incident to the town hall authorities. “We would have preferred a different solution but they have the legal right to impose the fine,” Portillo said.
However, the law does not appear to have scared people from sharing photos and videos on social media of the aftermath of the attack, including one photo posted on Twitter showing Spanish police making an arrest.
The news site Heavy has posted various photos and videos here. Below is the video of the cop ordering the man with the camera away, which takes place a few seconds before the one minute mark.
The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack that so far has resulted in two arrests, according to Business Insider.