New national newspaper launches next month

Here’s something you won’t have seen in the domestic press.

Attacks on press freedom in Spain and a cowed domestic media have prompted a campaigning editor to set up an online newspaper in an effort to hold the country’s establishment to account.

Pedro J Ramírez will launch El Español next month, with the aim of reviving Spain’s media, which he says have been neutered by a new security law and years of economic crisis.

Mr Ramírez said that press freedom was under attack from the citizens’ security law, under which media outlets can be fined up to €30,000 for filming or taking “unauthorised” pictures of police carrying out their duties. Article 26 states that media images of police could put the safety of officers at risk. The courts must decide what is “authorised”.

Newspapers were less willing to challenge the political and business elite, Mr Ramírez said, because falling revenues had left them financially precarious and vulnerable to political pressure.

Mr Ramírez, 63, was editor of the right-wing El Mundo newspaper for 25 years until he was sacked in 2014. There was suspicion that his dismissal was in retaliation for a series of reports about Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, who allegedly received tens of thousands of euros from a secret slush fund. Mr Rajoy denies the claims.

El Mundo was the first paper to publish original papers that substantiated claims that senior figures in Mr Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party had received cash from the fund, leading to a judicial investigation. Mr Ramírez said: “After a deep economic crisis the Spanish press has been on its knees because of falling revenues. Power in the media has passed from the editors to the management who are more ready to make comprises in return for favours. Any mayor or government minister can put pressure on the media.”

Scores of journalists have lost their jobs since Spain’s financial crisis began in 2008. Threats to journalists from officials, promising to get them sacked, are not uncommon.

El Español, which has attracted some of Spain’s most distinguished investigative journalists, has €118 million from investors and already has 9,000 subscribers.

Known as the “gag law” in Spain, the security law has been condemned internationally. The Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information said: “The passage of this law represents the worst attack on fundamental freedoms in Spain since the end of the Franco dictatorship.”

Under the law, a woman in Alicante was fined €800 for publishing a picture on her Facebook page of a police car parked in a disabled area.

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