Spain terror law has ‘chilling’ effect on free speech: Amnesty

Spain terror law has 'chilling' effect on free speech: Amnesty

Amnesty International said Tuesday a Spanish law banning the “glorification of terrorism” had created a “chilling” environment in which people are increasingly afraid to express alternative views or make controversial jokes.

In a report titled “Tweet… if you dare,” the NGO said article 578 of the Spanish criminal code, which bans glorifying terror or humiliating victims of terror, was being used to crush satire and creative expression online.

“The result is increasing self-censorship and a broader chilling effect on freedom of expression in Spain,” it said.

Over the last few months, several netizens or rappers have been jailed for tweets or lyrics considered as glorifying terror.

Rapper Pablo Hasel was sentenced to two years in prison in March for Twitter posts and a song which judges found praised terror groups, encouraged violence and insulted the state.

Last month, the Supreme Court also upheld a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for another rapper, Valtonyc, for lyrics it said glorified terrorism and insulted the crown.

“People should not face criminal prosecution simply for saying, tweeting or singing something that might be distasteful or shocking,” Esteban Beltran, head of Amnesty International in Spain, was quoted as saying in a statement.

Speaking to reporters in front of Spain’s top-level National Court, where many of the sentences were handed out, Beltran also asked for article 578 to be repealed.

He said the number of convictions for glorifying terror had risen from just one in 2011, when Basque armed group ETA declared a permanent ceasefire, to 31 in 2017.

“I’m preparing mentally for us to go to prison,” said Nyto Rukeli, one of 12 rappers from the La Insurgencia (“The Uprising”) collective who in December were sentenced to two years in jail for their lyrics and have appealed.

“We don’t have much hope,” the 23-year-old rapper added.

Eda Seyhan, the author of the report, said the convictions had created “an environment in which people are increasingly afraid to express controversial or alternative views or make potentially sensitive jokes for fear of legal prosecutions.”

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