Andorra

By Hannah Robinson

Introduction

flagandorra

Flag of Andorra

The country of Andorra, overall, has a free and open press. Although it is the 17th smallest country in the world, it ranks very highly on the World Press Freedom Index as the 35th most free country in 2017, dropping two spaces since 2016 (Reporters Without Borders). All citizens are literate, and 96.7 percent of the country has internet access. Serving a population of less than 80,000, Andorra offers two daily newspapers, two weekly newspapers, and two news radio stations. Its position high in the mountains between France and Spain also causes Andorra to be strongly influenced by the media and governments of surrounding countries (Press Reference).

 

Historical Background

Andorra is a tiny country in Western Europe, located between France and Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains. The mountainous region was not widely inhabited by early humans until the time of the Roman Empire, other than nomads passing through (Britannica). The cave paintings and fossil evidence found in the Pyrenees reflect only a small number of prehistoric individuals ever reaching the region (Southern France).

When the Muslim Moors invaded Europe in 711, they used the Andorran region as an access point to France, to the dismay of the Christians residing there. They finally gained independence when Charlemagne reclaimed the region from the Moors in 803 and declared them sovereign. He then passed the leadership of Andorra to his son, Louis I, who gave it to the bishops of Urgell, a Catalan county. The bishops then held control of Andorra until the end of the 13th century. As a result of this initial rule, the official language to this day is Catalan, a Romance language from Spain (Cultures of the World Andorra).

The Catalans were closely tied to Western European countries, especially France, because of their proximity. This caused the Catalan region, and consequently Andorra, to remain Catholic when much of Spain became Islamic (The Spanish Kingdoms). The vast majority of land in the Pyrenees was owned by Louis the Pious, who answered to the Catholic Church, and presented the bishops of Urgell with a charter, forbidding any land from being given away (The Development of Southern France and Catalan Society).

The country then fell under the joint rule of princes from France and Spain for 715 years, from 1278 to 1993, with a feudal system of government. This system was devised from French feudal influences on the region (The Spanish Kingdoms).  Neither country could determine who should have control over Andorra, and the argument was settled with a co-principality and representatives from both countries. Throughout this centuries-long period, the country experienced only minor changes due to their isolated position and peaceful government (CIA). One of these changes was the Council of Land being formed in 1419, creating an elected group of representatives to handle the country’s day-to-day affairs on a level that the joint princes could not. Now mostly ceremonial, the princes still have the power to approve treaties with France and Spain (The World Book). Then in 1913, construction was started on roads that linked Andorra to both France and Spain for the first time in history. Postal service, public utilities, and radio were introduced, transitioning society from traditional to modern (Cultures of the World Andorra).  

In 1993, citizens voted on and passed a constitution that gave power to an elected parliament, called the General Council, and an elected Executive Council president. The French and Spanish princes still hold a position in their government, but their roles are now largely ceremonial, as the elected prime minister and Executive Council hold all the power in foreign policy and economic decisions. They are elected from three main political parties, all of which formed after 1993. The Parliament has 28 members, which can be traced back to the Council of Land. Law interpretation is administered by the Supreme Council of Justice, the Andorran Supreme Court, and three lower courts. Court decisions by the Andorran Supreme Court are final and cannot be appealed (Tribunal Constitucional).  

Traditionally, Andorran citizens relied mostly on local trading with neighboring countries and small-scale subsistence agriculture, but when Andorra became more globalized, their economy expanded into banking and tourism primarily. Their free market is thriving with an average per-capita income at $46,000 a year, higher than the European average of $35,000. Citizens use the euro although Andorra is not a part of the European Union (Cultures of the World Andorra).

 

Free Speech

Citizens of Andorra enjoy freedom in many aspects of their lives. They receive media from both France and Spain, as well as their own national broadcasts, resulting in a very open exchange of information.

Similar to the United States, the Andorran constitution explicitly protects free speech, free press, religion, and peaceful assembly, as well as cultural events and internet access.

The official religion of Andorra was Roman Catholicism until 1993 when the constitution technically gave citizens freedom to practice any religion. However, freedom of religion in Andorra is still lacking in some ways. The church does affect what laws the government passes, and religious teachers are funded by the government. Only registered Roman Catholics can actually get married inside the country (The World Book). Catholics are allowed to marry people of other religions, but only if they agree to raise their children as Catholics, and so it can be said that the Andorran government does not completely protect people to adhere to whatever religion they desire. Many people are deeply rooted in their traditional ways and religion plays a large part in everyday life, including national religious holidays. All churches within the country are Catholic churches. The strong religious views of citizens have become less prevalent in recent years, especially with younger generations, but the country still has a way to go before people are truly free to openly practice other religions and still experience the same rights as Roman Catholics (All Andorra).

The progressiveness of speech protections in Andorra results in little conflicts between the government and the public. Since Andorra’s constitution was written so recently, it managed to directly address and protect citizens’ rights in modern issues such as internet access, unlike constitutions that were written hundreds of years ago. Thus, the interpretation of their laws has less gray area than countries that developed constitutions before modern communication methods existed.

The Catalan language is protected intensely by the government. Forty-one articles were written in 1999, requiring the use of Catalan in all official businesses, schools, the media, and the courts. All public signs and advertisements are also written in Catalan, although other languages are taught in school (Cultures of the World Andorra).

 

Free Press

The new Andorran government, formed in 1993, passed a law to protect the freedom of the press; however, there are no specific laws protecting freedom of information, meaning that the government is not required to disclose any previously unreleased documents. Much of Andorra’s press is highly influenced by French and Spanish publications due to the proximity of the three countries, so there is an open exchange of opinions and information. Regular news website updates in Andorra often contain information about what is taking place in the rest of Europe, as well as within the tiny country (Bondia).

The Law of Radio and Television Broadcasting, passed in 1989, also made all broadcasting a public service owned by the general population (Tribunal Constitucional). This law includes radio and television stations, all of which are governed by a board and a director who are elected and changed every six months. Andorra now hosts over twenty radio stations playing news, music, and other entertainment programs.

As for freedoms in Andorra newspapers, journalists experience little to no threats for reporting openly on a wide variety of topics. From 1998 to 2000, Andorra was one of only twelve countries that had no free speech or press violations, out of fifty-five total countries monitored in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This means that they experienced no imprisonment, censorship, or suppression of journalists in any way (IFEX). In the last two years, there have only been forty-eight court cases that reached the Andorran Supreme Court, and most of those cases involved land disputes (Tribunal Constitucional).

 

Critical Comparison

The United States created the First Amendment in 1791, while Andorra has only had its constitution and equivalent free speech and press protections since 1993. Since 1791, the United States has been a major player in multiple wars, saw the invention of the telephone, radio, television, and then the internet, and watched the world become globalized. Meanwhile, tiny Andorra was tucked away, high in the mountains, experiencing a mostly peaceful couple hundred years of relative isolation. When the time came for the Andorran government to form their own constitution, they had the opportunity to observe all the constitutions and laws implemented in other countries before them. Andorrans had the unique privilege of using ideas present in other constitutions, but were able to modify them more to fit the modern day better since they were already living in modern times.

On world freedom press rankings, Andorra consistently ranks higher than the United States. This is in part due to the United States being home to a population over 4,214 times larger than that of Andorra. Andorra does have four newspapers that do experience freedom without censorship, but in the United States, there are countless cities, all larger than Andorra, that have more newspapers in that one individual city than one entire country. Statistically, it makes sense that a country that has been around for over two hundred years with a population of over three hundred million people would have a lot more legal issues than a country of less than 80,000 that has only had a modern government and court system for the last twenty-five years.  

The United States did create the First Amendment that Andorra modeled part of their constitution on, but the topics in it are argued by courts much more in America. Again, this is mostly due to the tiny size of Andorra, but there are other factors at play. For one, Andorra’s population is largely homogenous, and over half of its citizens all practice the same religion. The country has no extreme poverty, and most people are actually well-off. Many more speech and press issues are bound to appear in a much larger, much more economically, ethnically, and culturally diverse country like the United States, that’s sitting at the center of the world stage and constantly tangled up in international affairs. It’s not hard to see why there are many more court cases involving hate speech, such as Brandenburg v. Ohio, in a country with an incredibly diverse population.

America is more tolerant of different religious groups than Andorra, though. A law requiring people to practice a certain religion in order to get married in the United States would be completely against the First Amendment and is hard to fathom even existing, and yet, it does in Andorra. Although it is extremely discriminatory, this law probably exists in Andorra because Roman Catholicism has been practiced for hundreds and hundreds of years, avoiding conversion even when nearby regions were affected, and religion remains an important aspect of society. On the other hand, the United States would never stand for such a law, because the whole country was founded by different religious groups escaping religious persecution and promoting tolerance.

The United States is definitely not the freest country in the world. Andorra, as well as around thirty other countries, are considered to have more speech and press freedoms. The American government does have a vast amount of people to protect while still allowing them as many freedoms as possible, and their ranking at the 43rd most free country in the world does reflect that the government is doing a good job relative to the size of the country. Andorra hasn’t had to experience issues on anywhere near the same scale as the United States, and with no speech- or press-related Supreme Court cases since its formation, the government can keep the country more peaceful and progressive for its citizens. The one major issues seen in Andorran laws is only allowing Roman Catholics to get married, and people do not worship in other religions and openly as people in the United States can.

 

Conclusion

In both Andorra and the United States, citizens can generally speak or print whatever they wish, with little to no fear of severe punishment. However, Andorra currently lacks any specific court cases to set a precedent for how their freedoms are to be protected, mostly because of the tiny population and recent formation of a modern government. Andorrans do have a fair amount of news sources and broadcasts to promote an open exchange of information both within and outside the borders, giving all citizens the opportunity to be well-informed enough to be the 35th most free country in the world.

 

Works Cited

 

Augustin, Byron. Andorra. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009.

 

Lewis, Archibald Ross. The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society, 718-1050. ACLS History E-Book Project, 2005.

Hillgarth, Jocelyn N. The Spanish Kingdoms. Clarendon Press, 1978.

 

Cleere, Henry. Southern France. Oxford University Press, 2001.

 

The World Book Encyclopedia 2017. Vol. 1A, World Book, Inc., 2017.

“Andorra Profile.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Dec. 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17028059.

 

“The World Factbook: ANDORRA.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 19 Mar. 2018,www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/an.html.

 

Rodriguez, Vicente. “Andorra.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Feb. 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Andorra.

 

“Andorra.” Press Reference, http://www.pressreference.com/A-Be/Andorra.html.

 

“Andorra.” Andorra | Freedom House, 16 Jan. 2018, freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/andorra.

 

“Andorra : Reporters without Borders.” RSF, rsf.org/en/andorra.

 

Llei De Radiodifusió i Televisió, De 12-10-89., http://www.bopa.ad/bopa/001025/Pagines/1540E.aspx.

 

“Tribunal Constitucional D’Andorra.” Inici, www.tribunalconstitucional.ad/.

 

“IPI Releases Study on Press Freedom Violations in OSCE Member States.” IFEX, http://www.ifex.org/international/2000/11/27/ipi_releases_study_on_press_freedom/.

BonDia Diari Digital D’Andorra., http://www.bondia.ad/societat.

 

“Marriage Registration in Andorra.” All About Andorra, all-andorra.com/how-to-get-married-marriage-registration-in-andorra/.

This essay was last updated on April 30, 2018.

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