Friday, December 5, 2008


There is an interesting blog on the ‘Voto en Blanco’ website entitled: “España: demasiados periodistas al servicio del poder dominante”. It argues that journalists in Spain are no longer free and that they have abandoned the pursuit of truth and instead have become “"propagandistas", "publicistas" or "agitadores" for the political commissars.

It is difficult for a Briton, from a nation that has enjoyed freedom of speech for centuries, to envisage what freedom of the press means in Spain where a dictatorship decreed what you could say well within living memory.

But what is freedom of the press?

Certainly in British terms a newspaper has a right to say what it likes within the bounds of the laws governing State security and liable. However nobody is foolish enough to suggest that journalists enjoy independent freedom other than which their masters wish them to employ.

For instance a journalist writing for the Daily Mirror knows that the paper is heavily slanted to supporting socialism and a Labour government as a hack on the Daily Mail will be expected to take a pro Conservative line.

Broadcasters who work for Fox News and Sky TV and journalists on The Times and in The Sun are in no doubt that at the end of the day they will reflect the views of Rupert Murdoch on major issues.

As long as the wider public is aware of this then no great harm is done and in general it is Labour supporters who read the Daily Mirror and Tory voters who buy the Daily Mail.

Those who want to plough a more independent furrow have to revert to the free world of blogs or start their own publication.

Certainly within the confines of writing in Spain I am aware that the majority of local English language newspapers will not report negative reports on some financial advisors even though too many ex-pats have been ripped off by them leaving their lives in ruin. They have been big advertisers and hence that money has bought silence.

An international radio station run by Onda Cero that is now defunct has carried numerous commercials over the years for the same suspect financial advisors as well as those hawking investments in ostriches or promising miracles cancer cures from crystals. Many listeners suffered whilst Onda Cero pocketed the income from the ads with no guilty conscience.

I know of one English publication, now also defunct, that barred any criticism of ETA because it was convinced the terrorist organisation read its news and would exact revenge if it spoke out against it.

That is the reality that journalists, who might wish to expose financial corruption or show ETA up for what it is, have to work in. We live in a free society but the freedom of journalists is dependent on the limits that their employers place on them.

So yes in Britain and Spain journalists, publications and broadcasters do enjoy freedom of speech but the bounds of that freedom are set not by journalists but by their employers and those they sympathise with.

This is in stark contrast to countries where there is no freedom of expression for anyone and the lines of press freedom are demarked by the bullet from a gun.

1 comment:

Lenox said...

You are quite right about the purse-strings controlling the editorial content. In Andalucía, the Junta de Andalucía's 'institutional advertising' goes to 'the right sort of newspaper and broadcaster' (or would it be... 'the left sort'?). The amounts concerned atre truly astronomical.

As far as the expat-press goes, its concerns are almost always based on profit, with litte or no interest in the group of people these papers claim to represent ('The Olive Press' excepted).