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Press body hits out at ‘biased’ media

25 February 2004

MADRID – The International Federation of Journalists criticised Wednesday the lack of impartiality in the Spanish press.

In Spain, a number of writers, academics, singers, journalists and actors have set up a platform to lament the absence of open political debate, reported the BBC.

Some blame Spain’s relatively young democracy.

“The Spanish press is filled with silences,” freelance journalist Emilio Silva said.

“So often when I’m out to lunch with another journalist, they say to me ‘Oh I wish I could write this report or that report,’ but they can’t because they are subject to unofficial political censures. This is a left-over of dictatorship.”

Though there are many newspapers, each has a distinctive political bias.

But though this is common in the privately-owned media, Spain’s public broadcaster, too, has come under fire.

In January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe cited Spain’s public radio and television channels as an example of “news manipulation”.

At Television Espanola itself, over half the employees formed an independent Advisory Council, in the face of what they describe as “the growing manipulation which is seriously undermining the credibility of the public channel and its workers”.

Maria Pilar, a professor of media law at Madrid University, explained that according to a law passed in 1980 to regulate the public broadcaster, Spanish radio and television cannot be anything but politicised.

“Every time there is a general election in Spain, the new prime minister appoints the head of the public broadcaster,” she said.

“The committee elected to help them in their job is then also newly formed to represent proportionately the size of each political party in parliament.

“How can Spanish public television and radio not be politicised with this law? 

Public TV is accused of censoring criticism from soldiers’ families.

“Of course the opposition parties always say they’ll change it .. but when they get in to government, it is no longer in their interest to do so.”

Gustavo de Aristegui, of the conservative Popular Party in government, denies any untoward influence in the media.

He said: “Of course the director general of the news output at Television Espanola has political opinions, we all do, but he is doing his best in his job and it is insulting to the professional integrity of the workers at TVE to suggest they are being controlled by the government.”

But Curra Ripolles, an employee at Television Espanola, says she has personal as well as professional experience of government influence at the public broadcaster.

In May last year, her brother was one of 62 Spanish peacekeepers killed on their way home from Afghanistan when their plane crashed over Turkey.

The flight had been chartered by the Spanish government and the families of those who died accused the government of having taken a cheap rather than safe option.
They said the plane was not technically sound.

“TVE would not broadcast our complaints, though,” Ms Ripolles said.

A recent public opinion poll, for example, showed 75 percent of Spaniards want a televised, live head-to-head debate between the two main contenders for the general election, to be held on 14 March.

Subject: Spanish news