Catalonia: journalists beaten and TV accused of bias in referendum clashes

By Jessica Jacques

Reporters have been beaten along with people attempting to vote in Catalonia’s independence referendum, which had been declared illegal by the Spanish government.

Catalonian mural Catalanian journalists suffer exceptional situation

ECPMF’s member in Spain, the PDLI (Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información) is monitoring violations of press freedom and human rights in an online observatory created for these events.

A political journalist of the "El Periodico" news website, Xabi Barrena, was assaulted on Sunday by the National Police when reporting on the ‘1-0’ referendum at the Ramon Llull school in Barcelona, used as a polling station. The reporter was recording with his mobile phone when he received a blow to the head by officers who tried to evacuate the room to prevent voting. The mobile phone video footage shows that they continued to kick him after he fell to the ground. Several people came to his rescue and handed him a bag of ice to help the inflammation on his head caused by the blows. The journalist later had to be treated by a doctor. He tweeted his thanks for the solidarity of the people who helped him.

Barrena posted a video on twitter showing, “the moment I was beaten on the back and head, while I was recording.”

Video journalist Jaime Alekos was also assaulted by the police while recording.

The Catalonian College of Journalists wrote on twitter to those covering events in Plaça Catalunya that they had opened their office (normally closed on Sundays) in order to facilitate journalists’ work.

Oriol Burgada, a journalist, posted a video showing the police insulting and pushing a journalist, despite his orange armband of the Catalonian College of journalists.

A reporter from and correspondent of the EFE Agency, Sofia Cabanes was attacked by “anti-forces” (anti referendum) in La Rapita. She estimated that about 100 people were injured in the town due to “anti avalanches”. Cabanes described the attack, “while recording a video, one of the Civil Guard officers hit my arm and my phone flew out of my hand. Immediately I ran to retrieve it and as I picked it up from the ground, he grabbed my hand and shook it.”

Cabanes has been treated for various wounds and will report the facts to the Catalan police. "I would like to thank the exemplary behaviour of many of the Rapita's neighbors who have protected me from the bumps so I could take pictures," Cabanes said. and NacioDigital have condemned it as “a serious attack on the exercise of the profession and a fundamental right such as freedom of the press.”

The Information Council of TVE, C.Informativos TVE, which guarantees the internal control and independence of information professionals, supports the complaints made by their employees in Sant Cugat and called for an investigation to be opened.

TVE journalists took to twitter to denounce the “shame“ they felt about the biased or insufficient reporting of the referendum.The news coverage of events in Catalonia has caused several workers to take to twitter to denounce the profession that they say has “manipulated” events.

"In a day as important as today citizens - whom we must offer true and complete information - have been deprived of the programming they deserve," they lament in the statement. The representative body of the workers has demanded that those responsible for the information respect "the obligation to inform with independence and plurality".

"We are deeply disturbed by videos from Barcelona showing attempts to intimidate TV reporters"

One wrote on twitter, “Shame, that's how I feel as a TVE journalist watching the biased treatment that the television newscast gives. This is manipulation.”

Another wrote, “In the Information Office of TVE, decisions are made on the basis of political criteria. And meanwhile the public service suffers.” Another was “ashamed of belonging to a public television station that does not inform on the abusive atrocities that are being experienced in Catalonia.”

In response, RNE News Council's, C. Informativos RNE, which observes plurality, freedom and informational independence wrote, “No special information of the #ReferendumCatalan in RNE. We apologise for this decision on a day of indisputable information relevance.” TVE journalists have also been attacked by demonstrators or people trying to publicise or take part in the referendum, according to Reporters san Frontières.

The media freedom campaign has published a report showing press freedom violations on both sides of the politicial divide. Pauline Adès-Mevel, the RSF’s head of EU and Balkan Affairs, commented: “We are deeply disturbed by videos from Barcelona showing attempts to intimidate TV reporters. We urge the Catalan authorities to condemn the stigmatization of the Spanish media, the attempts to blame them for a situation that is political in origin. This blaming of the media echoes the campaigns of Donald Trump and far-right movements.”

The ECPMF Reporting Point is available 24 hours a day for journalists or citizens to report attacks on the press and media workers and all reports are treated in confidence.



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