Free speech under fire: Spanish court convicts cartoonists for caricaturing a royal romp
Spanish cartoonists have been convicted for falling foul of the countries austere laws that prevent the press from commenting on or satirising those in power.
For a journalist or cartoonist the story was too good to miss – the government had introduced a scheme to up the birth-rate by offering mothers cash for having babies. The weekly satirical magazine, El Jueves came up with a cartoon of the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Filipe and his wife Princess Letizia having sex, accompanied by a caption of him telling his wife that if he got her pregnant that would be closest thing he ever did to work in his life.
Witty, yes. Topical, also. It wouldn’t have cause too much of a stir in the UK but Spanish – and many other continental European laws – take a different view - defaming the Royal family in Spain carries a 2 year prison sentence. Back in July a judge issued an order banning the publication and ordered all copies of the magazine to be seized (thereby ensuring they became hot property and the story spread over the internet).
At their trial this week, the court convicted the magazine’s editor, Manel Font de Villa and cartoonist, ‘Guillermo’ of “damaging the prestige of the crown”. Each were fined £2,539 for their humorous contribution to public debate.
This is the latest in a string of cases that has seen European courts use arcane powers of their domestic laws to constrain freedom of the press. While the European Convention on Human Rights was meant to safeguard free expression and individual constitutions across Europe provide for a free press, old fashioned laws created by the establishment are still being used to gag those who should be questioning them in a democratic society.
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