THE jailing of Spanish rapper and poet Pablo Hansel over the content of his lyrics has sparked a nationwide backlash in Spain’s punishments for crimes against free speech.
Humanitarian organisation Amnesty International, along with 200 fellow artists, journalists and filmmakers have jumped to the young rapper’s defense, creating a written manifesto demanding Hansel’s release.
The 33-year-old is charged with crimes of glorifying terrorism and insulting the Spanish Monarchy thanks to lyrics in his verses about terrorist organisations such as the ETA and Terra Lliure.
Hansel has been sentenced by the Supreme Court to nine months in prison, on top of a further two years given to him in 2014 for similar crimes.
In the manifesto, it explains that ‘the Spanish State has come to top the list of countries that have punished the most artists for the content of their songs, we have now overtaken countries such as Morocco and Turkey.’
Fellow artists have also added to the letter, claiming that ‘the sword of Damocles now hangs over our heads if we dare to criticise any of the actions of the state, they can go after any of us next.’
The case has received an overwhelming rejection from the public and lawmakers alike, so much so that the government have now proposed amending the law to reform the limit of freedom of expression.
Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo (Podemos Unidas) explained that the amendments are just “one step towards clarifying the boundaries of freedom of expression, but we cannot account for terminology that infringes on other human rights.”
This sentiment has been echoed by legal experts that have been divided over the topic for many years.
Many leaning on the side of freedom of expression especially in the arts, argue that the right to freedom of speech is a pillar of democracy and a key factor in the Charter of Human Rights.
However the line becomes blurred when speech incites or promotes violence and discrimination towards another race, culture, group or person.
Carmen Juanatey from the University of Alicante, told RTVE that it is likely for the new laws to insist that each case be taken at its own merit, rather than issuing a blanket crime of anything that goes against the constitution.
Hansel is not the only artist that has found himself the wrong side of the law through his lyrics.
The Mallorcan born rapper Vantonyc got himself into hot water over the communist, and anti-capitalist nature of his lyrics back in 2018.
He also was reprimanded for a speech during a concert in Seville where he allegedly advocate for the killing of Guardia Civil Officers.
Valtonyc was sentenced to three years and six months in jail, however fled to Belgium shortly before he was due to begin his time, leading to a European arrest warrant being issued on him.