The Listening Post

Spain’s new ‘gag law’ and the media

What Spain’s ‘gag law’ means for the media; and a radio station broadcasting from inside a mental hospital in Argentina.

On April 12, protestors in Madrid found a different way to express their discontent over a new ‘gag’ law. They marched to Spain’s parliament virtually – in what has become known as the world’s first hologram march.

The law – which will come into effect in July – will make many forms of public gathering and demonstrations illegal. Protestors will be barred from assembling outside Congress, permission must be sought before any public gathering and fines can be issued if anyone is caught breaking the rules. With non-stop austerity protests over the past three years, this law is likely to have a huge impact.

The media will also be affected. Photographing, filming or publishing pictures of police operations can constitute a criminal offense. You can even be prosecuted for a tweet – if it contains a hashtag publicising a political event the government has not authorised. With the rise of the anti-austerity leftist party, known as Podemos and with elections eight months away, protests, and their tendency to drive the media narrative – are a big part of what is happening in Spain.

Talking us through the story this week is Bieito Rubido, the editor of ABC newspaper; Jesus Marana, editorial director at the Infolibre website; Alejandro Caballero, president of the RTVE Workers’ Committee; and Enrique Bustamante, professor of Audiovisual Communication at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Other stories on our radar this week: In Egypt, four journalists have been sentenced to life in jail – another blow to press freedom in the country; three civil liberties groups sue the British government at the European Court over the mass surveillance practices of its spy agencies; and a follow-up to last week’s story on the controversial Malaysian sedition law.

Argentina’s ‘loony radio’

More than 20 years ago, a psychology student doing his training at one of Argentina’s oldest psychiatric wards kept being asked by his family and friends what it was like to work in there. So he decided the best way to do it was to let the patients explain in their own words. The result: the first radio station to broadcast from inside a mental hospital was born.

Radio La Colifata – slang for loon, crazy person, has been on air from Hospital Jose Borda in Buenos Aires for 23 years and has since gone from AM, FM to online. The station wants to change the negative way people view mental illness and it is the patients who present the broadcasts – with shows on issues like politics and sports. While the radio was never intended as a serious journalistic endeavour, it is having an impact with around 50 stations across Latin America and Asia now set up based on the Colifatos model.

In this week’s feature, The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro heads to Buenos Aires to hear what the Colifatos has to say.

We close the show with an extended video of our End Note. Nearly two years ago, former Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the US National Security Agency, leaked all those documents exposing the extent of digital surveillance by spy agencies around the world. The UK’s Guardian newspaper broke the Snowden story and the British government responded by sending a security team into the Guardian to destroy a laptop that held all that secret information. What was left of that Mac became the inspiration behind a new exhibit on the devices we use at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. We visited the exhibition and met with one of the curators who walks us through the exhibition. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.