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Covid, rapper Hasel protests, independence: top issues of worldwide discussion about Catalonia

Arrest of Puigdemont, far-right Vox, Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, and Leo Messi are other topics widely commented on on social media

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07 February 2022 05:29 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Covid-19 was, for a second year in a row, the issue leading worldwide discussion about Catalonia in 2021 (42,814 hits). 

According to a study commissioned by Diplocat, a public-private consortium that promotes the values and assets of Catalonia to international public opinion, the pandemic accounted for 9% of the global online discussion about the territory online. 

The report, made by the Nethodology research institute, took Twitter mostly into account but also digital media outlets, blogs, and forums. 

Overall, 477,155 mentions were detected – an average of just over 1,300 per day –, 40% fewer than in 2020 (793,605). The potential audience reached was 201 million people. 

Most mentions were neutral (57%), followed by negative comments (26%), then positive ones (17%). 

Politics (59%) and sports (19%) were the main themes discussed, along with culture, education, science, incidents, tourism, and gastronomy. 

As for specific topics, the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel for the content of his lyrics and the subsequent protests against it that unfolded in mid-February 2021 was the second most commented issue of the year (36,657 hits) behind the pandemic. 

The former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, now in exile, was third in the list (26,345 mentions), and this included comments about his brief arrest in Sardinia on September 23, but also the debate on his immunity as MEP – in March, the European lawmakers voted in favor of removing his privileges as Member of the European Parliament, but he challenged the decision, which is now being decided in the EU court. 

The independence topic, including the ongoing talks between the Catalan and Spanish cabinets, the possibility of a referendum, and the events in 2017 was fourth in the ranking (20,269). 

The result of the February 14, 2021 election was fifth (19,815 mentions), which saw the unprecedented overall majority of votes go to parties in favor of a split with Spain as well as the surge of far-right Vox. 

Indeed, the study reveals that the third week of February, coinciding with the aftermath of the vote and the Hasel protests, had by far the highest number of hits all year.

Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia', popular topic

FC Barcelona, potential self-determination for Catalonia, and the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, follow as most popular issues. George Orwell's famous book 'Homage to Catalonia' is also one of the topics of the year – somewhat surprising given that no specific events or anniversaries related to the book or the author took place in 2021. 

The work gathering the writer's experiences as a journalist and antifascist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War was the third most popular topic related to Catalonia in the US, and the top one in Brazil, largely due to a few tweets from very popular Twitter accounts. 

As for people involved in politics, the current Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, is the third most popular figure, following Puigdemont and Pedro Sánchez, but at a significant distance. No women stand in the top ten of the ranking. 

Diplocat's report also shows that in sports, Barça amasses most of the conversation, followed by big events such as the Moto GP Grand Prix held in Catalonia and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, a cycling race. 

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  • A rubbish container set on fire during the protests against the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel, February 2021 (by Salvador Miret)

  • A rubbish container set on fire during the protests against the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel, February 2021 (by Salvador Miret)

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