The Internet is our nation

We usually link the restriction of freedom of expression to non European countries or the ones far away from the place we live in. We use to think that our apparently fair democracies give us all the freedoms we deserve, journalists are free to do their work properly without problems and we can express our opinion without being censored but… is this completely true?
Italy, Greece, even Spain… they are all familiar places for us, all of them members of the European Union and, theoretically, developed countries.
However… what is the situation of media in these places?

Italy is inside this repression of press. Berlusconi was owner of Mediaset and because of that he had a huge control over different media and, as a president, he made Italian law favourable to the censorship. One employee of RAI –other media channel in Italy, apparently out of this influence– said that censorship in Italy is very complex and that Berlusconi also had indirect control over RAI, even when it is not part of Mediaset.
“It would be difficult to imagine a modern and industrialized country, a member of the G8 and a founding member of the European Union, where a single figure had so much control over the media. You might expect this kind of concentration in Turkmenistan or Iran, but it shouldn’t take place in a country like Italy” were the words of Domenico Affinito, the vice-president of the Italian chapter of Reporters without borders.
Berlusconi also tried to extend his control over the Internet, drafting a decree (known as “ley mordaza”) to vet different videos, blogs and online media because of their content.
Italian version of Wikipedia protested because of it, changing all its Italian pages for a complaint about it, because this law affected them directly, as all the content should be censored before being published.

The situation in Greece is also a very complex one. In October, 2012, media outlets made a strike and protested in different ways because of the worsening and restriction of citizens’ rights and especially press freedom. Two journalists of the public channel NET TV were suspended apparently because of their critics to a minister of the Greek government. However, the only thing they did was to communicate that a medical report indicated the existence of police torture and, because of that, they asked for the resignation of the minister. As a reaction, journalists of public TV accused the government of censorship and started some stoppages.
This same day, other journalist published a list of 2.000 Greeks with bank accounts in Switzerland, which caused his detention. The protests of the journalists boosted after this event because of the quick persecution of journalists in comparison with the slow process to go against the people accused tax evasion.

However, restriction of freedom of expression is not always so evident and “far” away from us. Spain is also a country where journalists (in a professional or activist way) can be limited when working. Since October, 2012, the government is planning to modify the law of Citizen Security to ban the spread of images or videos of policeman working if this puts them in a risky situation. This measure wants to avoid the harassment in social networks but many people consider that this is a restriction of freedom of expression, as it is difficult to define the line when an image should not be shared and that it can avoid the complaints when an unfair situation, as unjustified police charges in demonstrations. The Ministry working on this has ensured that journalists’ job won’t be restricted and has said that the situation that wants to be avoided is the spread of images through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Youtube or other social networks but in case of people participating in the demonstration (and, once again, when this can be harmful for the forces of security). However, we can wonder if this is just an excuse to have the support of the Law to restrict freedom of expression (because this right is not only for journalists but for everybody).
Furthermore, the “Circle Board of Foreign Correspondents in Spain” published a document complaining about the censorship of the government. They said that the International Centre of Press was provided to foreign correspondents by the Ministry of Presidency in 2009 to make their job easier, but in august of 2012 they communicated a meeting with Baltasar Garzón and other with Cándido Méndez one week later (not asking for permission but to “book” the rooms for the meetings). The government denied the use of the room for the meeting with Baltasar Garzón, considering it too private and unsuitable, with no more explanations.
Is it a real democracy when the government decides when the job of the journalists can be done?


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