You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Rocked by a Corruption Scandal, Spain's Government Limits Media Access

BY Julia Wetherell | Tuesday, March 5 2013

The Congreso de los Disputados, home of Spain's Lower Parliament in Madrid (Wikimedia Commons).

It’s not an easy time to be a journalist in Spain.  Even as the country’s ongoing economic and unemployment woes continue, and a political scandal of unprecedented scale rocks all levels of government, trust in the press – and incentives to produce objective journalism – are at an all-time low. 

The lack of transparency in Spanish institutions has a hand in all of these situations.  Spanish law currently makes no provision for freedom of information.  Although a draft law that would legitimize routes to transparency and public information access was proposed to Spanish parliament last year, it has not been amended to meet the standards of the Council of Europe Conventions on Access to Official Documents

The consequences of having no such accountability in government became acutely apparent in late January, when a financial scandal involving the conservative People's Party broke, swiftly embroiling officials at the regional and national level. 

The government's hostility toward the press has become so intense that journalists are apparently being shunted into a separate room during press conferences addressing the scandal, forced to view the proceedings on streaming video and denied the opportunity to ask live questions. 

Although it was the El País newspaper that broke the corruption story in late January, publishing the “secret papers” of former People’s Party treasurer Luis Barcenas that pointed to payoffs received by government officials, the Christian Science Monitor reported last week that the public trusts journalists far less than other professionals, like doctors or firefighters. 

Such distrust is not entirely unfounded, given that many Spanish newspapers are owned by special interest institutions, like the state, the Catholic Church, or large corporations. 

Yet as the scandal continues to evolve, sprouting heads even in the monarchy, denying the public the answers that journalism can provide seems like it can only end in misinformation and even deeper mistrust of authorities.  

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.