Spain Flag

Spain Flag

By Juan Saldana 


Spain is part of the European Union, and has a constitutional monarchy with a Parliamentary Democracy. Currently, Reporters Without Borders classifies Spain to be ranked 36th in the International Freedom Press Index. In 2002, Spain was at its peak ranked at 29. The following ten years Spain has fluctuated variously. In 2009, Spain reached its lowest rank at 44. The reason Spain was ranked 44 was due to new enacting legislation that compromised journalists throughout Spain. At the time laws were being inducted. That gave former Spain minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, automatic rights to influence the publication of journalists. Currently, Spain shows little progress in rising within the ranks as it is working with recent established laws.

Historical Background

Spain is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1978. King Juan Carlos I of Spain, who is the head of state, can ratify laws, dissolve legislation, and propose candidates for office; he is also head of the armed forces. Mariano Rajoy Brey is prime minister and head of government. Juan Carlos I is also the king who proposes the prime minister, who must be approved by the legislature. Spain has a bicameral legislature, or better known as “Cortes” or Congress of Deputies. Members of the 350-seat Congress of Deputies are elected by popular vote. Spain is also part of the international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Any person who feels his or her rights have been violated under the convention by a state can take a case to the Court. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitor the execution. Generally the establishment of the Court is to protect individuals from human right violations. This gives the individual an active role in government.

The country of Spain is located in southwestern Europe. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Biscay, and Mediterranean Sea in the east and south. It borders with Portugal in the west and with France in the northeast. Spain’s population estimates to be 47,042,984, with a variety of people from several bordering countries. Also foreign immigrants make up Spain’s population, for instance Colombians and Ecuadorians are a large part of Spain’s demographics. Madrid, capital of Spain holds the largest number of people. Spain is known for having exceptional soccer talent. Currently, Spain holds the FIFA World Cup Championship, that was won in 2010 in South Africa. Historically Spain has undergone drastic change, from early “Roman Hispania” to late dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The transition to a democratic state began around the 1970s after Franco’s death. Afterward, democratic parties led Spain from a conservative nation to a more liberal one.

Free Speech

In Spain, freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental rights that individuals enjoy. It is a constitution law that comes from the Spanish Constitution of 1978. It is fundamental to the existence of democracy and the respect of human dignity but there is also significant danger in these freedoms It can also be the most dangerous right. Freedom of expression also means the freedom to express discontent with the status quo and ideas to change it. According to Country Watch, Spain has one of the best human rights records in the world today. Before the transition to democracy, Spain’s freedom of speech was not part of the human rights under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The term “Francosim” refers to the period of Spanish history from 1936 to 1975 when the dictatorship of Fransisco Franco took control of Spain. A time period of censorship of journalism, free speech, and political control. In contemporary Spain, more freedom exists in the press and freedom of individual. The Spanish constitution of 1978, born during Spain’s change to democracy, was the first establishment of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in Section 20 of the Spanish constitution : “the right to freely express and disseminate thoughts, ideas and opinions trough words, in writing or by any other means of communication…the right to freely communicate or receive accurate information by any means of dissemination whatsoever. The law shall regulate the.”

Currently Spain’s economy is in downfall, members of workers unions and civil society’s joined to protest against the government and the lack of jobs it is producing: “Tens of thousands of protesters amassed in Madrid and other Spanish cities on Saturday to voice their anger over harsh austerity and the way the country’s being run in the wake of its financial crisis” – Madrid CNN. Unemployment rate stands at 26 percent and many young adults are jobless. Spain citizens are being highly affected by the high unemployment rate. The voice of the people is being heard throughout Spain. It is within section 20 of the Spanish constitution that permit the Spaniards to freely express themselves towards the inefficiency of the government.

Free Press

Also within section 20 of the Spanish constitution, freedom of the press is generally respected. Spain has public and private diverse press. Television, radio, and newspaper are used throughout Spain. Many of these forms of press have been greatly affected by the recent economic depression in Spain. Much like freedom of expression, before the transition to democracy, the press was heavily regulated by the dictating government. Under the dictatorship of Franco, freedom of press was not considered a human right. A current press issue arose on June 2, 2010. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a sentence for libel given to “Diario” newspaper editor Jose Gutierrez by the Spanish court was violating freedom of expression and the press. The case went back to 1997 when the Moroccan Royal Crown sued Gutierrez for a story written about a truck found carrying large amounts of hashish belonging to the then – Morrocan king. The court found five journalists that were linked to the Basque group. The Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) has been threatening journalists since then. In 2000, ETA gunmen shot journalists for printing false information and accusation. Investigating judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the closing of the newspaper press and radio station as it was a call to end the terrorist group ETA. It is common for journalists in Spain to receive threats for what they print. This incident has impacted the press and journalists within Spain.

According to Columbia Journalism Review Spain’s other big journalistic challenge is its highly politicized press: “Television, radio, and newspapers at national, regional, and local levels are generally aligned with a political party, and this is frequently reflected in their news content, as well as on their editorial pages.” The press is highly linked with political parties making the press seem biased to certain degrees. The political parties will transmit news that only benefit the governing party. Although Spain has high freedom of speech and the press, government runs and uses the freedoms to its advantage.

Critical Comparison

The United States of America and Spain both have similar free speech and free press freedoms. The notion that the U.S is the freest country can be true when compared to Spain, only because the U.S government plays a bigger role in delivering government jurisdiction. Journalists are not being threatened by terrorist groups for what they published. In Spain there are rules and regulations on what can be printed, but much can be said about officials and people. In the New York Times v. Sullivan casethe United States Supreme Court established what the press could write and publish about individuals, including statements that are substantially true. Within Spain’s constitution, article 20 also guarantees this right. Although in Spain there are national threats to journalists when they criticize the wrong entity. In comparison, within the American system, free press rights are arguably a top priority, as it is written in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Much like the United States, Spain comes from a dictating ruler. Before Spain shifted to a democracy, there was huge limits on speech. Now Spain is slowly establishing stronger free speech and press rights. Rights that are insured to the people by the government of Spain. The United States, as the original 13 American Colonies had the same problem being tied to England, there were limits on speech, and human rights were not equally valued. For the same reason after Franco’s death, Spain as a country became more liberal and began to value the importance of human rights. For example, protest is considered a liberal form of free speech in Spain, in the same way it is valued in the United States. Currently Spain is going through economic troubles, but due to the Spanish Constitution, people are able to protest and express ideas on how the government is running the economy. Protesting is a freedom of expression valued in both countries. In Spain, people are protesting against how the government deals with the issue of unemployment and crisis of the economy. In a scenario where Spain still had a dictatorship, the voice of the people would not matter and change could not happen. It is important in a free society, much like the United States to have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech and press do exist within Spain, but only to a certain degree. The government lacks reinforcement and there are outside terrorist groups that are infringing on the rights of the Spaniard people. In contrast to Spain, the United States establishes freedom of speech and the press through Supreme Court cases and a strict Supreme Court that sticks to initial concepts of liberty and justice.


Like many countries within the European Union, Spain is going through new legislation. Legislation that is taking the country time to configure itself to new law. Journalists have to be careful in choosing what to report on because of frequent ETA threats. Spain may have a concrete constitution set up, but without a strong democratic government to enforce and prevent the people’s freedoms of free speech and free press are at question. Free Speech and Free press are essential to The United States and Spain, without these rights the idea of a democracy would not exist. It is important have an open and free society where people can get involved in politics and government, just like it was initially intended by the framers of the United States Constitution. If society lacks these freedoms there is a large possibility of other forms of dictating governments to take effect. Ultimately without free speech and free press there is no chance for equality and freedoms to exist within democratic nations.

 Notes .aspx protests all

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)

The peculiarities of censorship under the Franco régime” (1936-1951)

Sinova, Justino. Espasa-Calpe, 1989.

Spain Under Franco” 11/30/59, Vol. 141 Issue 22, pg 10- 18, 9p, Article

Country Report. Spain; Dec2012, Issue 12, preceding p1-1, 48p Article

(This post was last updated April 30, 2013)


One Response to Spain

  1. Pingback: Blog 3 – Press Freedom | Megan Rodrigues – JOUR 401

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