Spain’s government is drafting a law that bans the photographing and filming of members of the police. The Interior Ministry assures they are not cracking down on freedom of expression, but protecting the lives of law enforcement officers.
The draft legislation follows waves of protests throughout the country against uncompromising austerity cuts to public healthcare and education.
The new Citizen Safety Law will prohibit “the capture, reproduction and editing of images, sounds or information of members of the security or armed forces in the line of duty,” said the director general of the police, Ignacio Cosido. He added that this new bill seeks to “find a balance between the protection of citizens’ rights and those of security forces.”
The dissemination of images and videos over social networks like Facebook will also be punishable under the legislation.
Despite the fact that the new law will cover all images that could pose a risk to the physical safety officers or impede them from executing their duty, the Interior Ministry maintains it will not encroach on freedom of expression.
“We are trying to avoid images of police being uploaded onto social networks with threats to them and their families,” underlined Cosido.
Violation of freedom of expression?
Spain’s United Police Syndicate said it considers the implementation of the new legislation “very complicated” because it does not establish any guidelines over what kinds of images violate the rights of a police officer. The syndicate warned that the ministry will run into “legal problems” if it does not specify the ins and outs of the law.
However, the director of the police argued that the measures were necessary given the “elevated levels of violence against officers” in the economic downturn that is “undermining the basis of a democratic society.”
The anti-austerity protests that have swept Spain over the past year have been punctuated by reports and footage of police brutality. The footage showed that large numbers of Spanish officers did not wear their identification badges during the protests, although the law requires it.
Spain’s beleaguered economy is in danger of following in the footsteps of Greece.
The government has made sweeping cuts to the public sector, provoking the ire of a Spanish public already disillusioned at rising unemployment that tops 50 per cent among adolescents.
The Spanish government has not yet called on the European Central bank for a bailout, but rising economic woes and an unchecked public deficit may force it to do so in the near future.