Have you heard the one about the woman prosecuted for a joke?
For twitter users in Spain, this is not a joke.
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Under Article 578 of the Spanish Criminal Code those deemed to have “glorified terrorism” or “humiliated the victims of terrorism or their relatives” – no matter how vague these terms are – face fines, bans from jobs in the public sector and even prison sentences.
Tweet…if you dare: How counter-terrorism laws restrict freedom of expression in Spain reveals that scores of ordinary social media users as well as musicians, journalists and even puppeteers have been prosecuted on grounds of national security. This has had a profoundly chilling effect, creating an environment in which people are increasingly afraid to express alternative views, or make controversial jokes.
While Article 578 was broadened in 2015 in response to the Paris attacks and the perceived threat of international terrorism, vast majority of the cases brought under the law relate to disbanded or inactive domestic armed groups, namely ETA and GRAPO. Since 2014, four coordinated police operations – dubbed the “Spider Operations” - led to scores of people arrested for posting messages on social media platforms, in particular Twitter and Facebook.The number of people charged under this Article increased from three in 2011 to 39 in 2017 and nearly 70 people were convicted in the last two years alone.
“Rapping is not a crime, tweeting a joke is not terrorism and holding a puppet show should not land you in jail. Governments should uphold the rights of victims of terrorism, rather than stifling free speech in their name. Spain’s draconian law must be repealed and all charges brought against anyone solely for peacefully expressing themselves must be dropped,” - Eda Seyhan, Amnesty’s Campaigner on Counter-Terrorism
The Freedom of Discussing "Independence” and “Self-Determination”
How would the disqualification of LegCo candidates based on a certain political stance affect our freedom of expression?
In the Human Rights Friday on March, Eric TM Cheung, the Principal Lecturer of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, analysed the incident from two perspectives: 1) local and international law; and 2) requirements of civil servant appointment. It is believed that the freedom to "discuss issues that are deviated from the existing consensus", such as independence and self-determination, should be protected. He also pointed out that the government has violated procedural justice, there could be severe problems if the government does not act in accordance with the law and embraces procedural justice.
The disqualified LegCo election candidate, Agnes Chow Ting, shared her experience and the official documents that the electoral officer disqualified her candidacy. She expressed her concern regarding the political criteria not subject to legal restrictions, and “sovereignty should not override personal freedom of speech and basic political rights”
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