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NGO defending freedom of artistic expression says Spain is “major concern”

International organization Freemuse wants Spanish government to change law used to jail musicians over their lyrics

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21 June 2018 06:20 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The independent international organization that defends freedom of artistic expression, Freemuse, says that Spain is one of its “major concerns.” In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Freemuse says that Spain was the state that convicted most musicians (13) to jail in 2017, followed by China, Iran, Egypt and Turkey.

The NGO will ask for a meeting with Pedro Sánchez’s government to explain the conclusions of its study titled, ‘State of Artistic Freedom Report 2018’. According to Freemuse head, Srirak Plipat, Spain’s anti-terror laws are an “attack on human rights” and he warns that if nothing is done it could help create a “climate of fear that forces artists into self-censorship.”

Specifically, Freemuse wants the Sánchez government to repeal article 578 of the criminal code, which has recently been used to justify prison sentences against rappers Valtonyc, Elgio and Pablo Hasel. Plipat says that the problem with the article is that the way it is formulated is “general and unclear,” something that allows for biased interpretations.

The organization accuses the former government of Mariano Rajoy of taking advantage of the Paris terror attacks in 2015 to force through anti-terror legislation. “Many people have been arrested for sharing messages on Twitter, for expressing their opinion,” says Plipat, whose organization has registered 553 “attacks against artistic freedom” in 78 countries.

Yet, Freemuse warns of many cases that go unnoticed because of self-censorship. “It is even more difficult to monitor the times an artist has not said something out of fear,” says Plipat, who adds: “Even though you only put one person in prison, the consequences affect the entire artistic community.” That is why Freemuse has a message for the Spanish government: “to respect international standards, and that includes freedom of expression.”

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  • From left to right: Valtònyc, Pablo Hasél, and Elgio, three Hip Hop artists sentenced to prison by Spanish courts (by Jordi Bataller)

  • From left to right: Valtònyc, Pablo Hasél, and Elgio, three Hip Hop artists sentenced to prison by Spanish courts (by Jordi Bataller)