15 Jun, 2022 @ 13:30
2 mins read

Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist slams Spain’s Gag Law after receiving €960 fine while photographing migrant crisis

Photo by Javier Bauluz for gag law story only
Photo by Javier Bauluz for gag law story only

SPAIN’s Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Javier Bauluz has spoken out against Spain’s controversial gag law after being fined €960 by Spanish authorities following a confrontation with police who tried to stop him photographing the arrival of migrants in the Canary Islands.

The penalty notices arrived from Agencia Tributaria earlier this month demanding €960 after officers wrote him up for infractions following an incident in November 2020.

He was penalised for ‘refusing to present ID’ when asked to my a police officer (a charge he denies) as well as ‘disrespecting a police officer’ by arguing with him.

“With this ‘gag law’ you lose the right to have a fair trial, to have a lawyer, some witnesses, some evidence,” the photographer told Spanish newspaper elDiario.es.

“You face fines because a police officer puts what he wants and decides on my life without me being able to defend myself.” 

He added: “One is absolutely helpless. There is no justice.”

Bauluz has described how he was working on a project covering the migrant crisis which saw some  20,000 people reach the Canary Islands in boats from the West African coast during 2020 alone. 

While the human tragedy of the displaced arrivals took place on the quayside at Arguineguin in Gran Canaria, press were kept in a cordoned off area, only allowed to watch from afar.

Bauluz complained that this meant it was impossible to do his job as he could only take impersonal photos “showing masses of unidentifiable people.”

So early one morning, when Bauluz arrived at the port just as a rescue boat was docking and before police had a chance to cordon off the area, he began to take photographs of the new arrivals.

However, he was soon confronted by the police who demanded that he left. The police claim that during this discussion, Bauluz refused to give his identity (which he denies), and accused him of “disrespecting an officer.” This alleged insult is where the gag-law comes into play.

Officially known as the Citizen’s Security Law (Ley Organica de la Seguridad Ciudadana), this legislation imposes fines, more often than not on journalists and media outlets, for taking unauthorised photos of the police. 

It also limits spontaneous public protests. 

There has been widespread criticism of the law which was brought in by the conservative Popular Party (PP) government under former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy arguing that it curbs freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Bauluz’s case has gathered support online from the likes of Amnesty International who tweeted “The work of journalists like Javier Bauluz is crucial to documenting rights violations.” 

Bauluz photographs from the Canary Islands have been collected in a book ‘La Ruta Canaria’ which is now on sale HERE


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