SPAIN: New government opens to reform of gag laws (UPDATED)

UPDATE – 20 February 2019: Europa Press “Pedro Sanchez’s decision to call general elections for April 28 will prevent the General Courts from approving two partial reforms of the Constitution and the repeal of laws such as the Citizen Security Law, renamed the ‘Gag Law’ by its detractors, or the permanent prison reviewable.” Read more:

The collective Defender a quien Defiende commented:

“The Congress has certified today what all the collectives that work against the criminalization of protest have been warning: there is no political will to end the #LeyMordaza. Pedro Sánchez’s decision to call the elections for April 28 has caused this Wednesday to put an end to his possible reform in the face of the imminent dissolution of the Cortes Generales. Does not matter who in the government, we will not be silenced. See you in the streets. Let’s go!” (Translated from Spanish)

UPDATE – 6 February 2019: Publico “Congress reaches an agreement to decriminalize the taking of images to police. Although these amendments have to go through a voting procedure in the commission, sources of the organ ensure that sufficient consensus has been achieved between the different groups.

Section 23 of article 36 of the current law on citizen security identifies as “serious infringement” the “unauthorized use of images or personal or professional data of authorities or members of the Security Forces that could endanger security personal or family of the agents , of the protected installations or at risk the success of an operation, with respect to the fundamental right to information “.

The intention of the groups, say sources of the commission, is to include a section in the article that states that the mere taking of images in places of public transit and demonstrations will not constitute an infringement, so that it is only penalized the dissemination of these images when there is a “real” risk to the security of the agent. 

[…] The groups have also reached a principled agreement to delimit the responsibility of the organizers and promoters of demonstrations and assemblies. The organizers will only be sanctioned when they have not had enough security measures and the demonstration becomes violent. In this sense, explains these same sources, these people cannot be held responsible for the violent acts that may be committed by other attendees to the demonstration. If the promoters have security measures at their disposal (dialogue with the administration, instructions to guide a march on a public road …) they cannot be sanctioned even if violent acts occur.’ Read more:


UPDATE – 21 January 2019: Publico “The End of the Gag Rule: Congress Ready to Dismantle its Most Harmful Points. The groups have worked over the last few months to draft a new text to replace the law unilaterally drafted by the PP in 2015. Most of the work on the text has been aimed at finding formulas to limit the scope of the law, as the groups criticize that one of the main problems of the current law is that it is characterized by the lack of definition in its articles. […]

During the first meeting of the paper, the parties reached an agreement to define and limit the concept of citizen security, as well as to suppress terms such as “citizen tranquillity”, whose “ambiguity”, in the opinion of some members of the paper, creates suitable spaces for the abuse of state powers. Last week the groups reached a consensus to impose limits on certain police actions, such as searches.” Read more:


UPDATE – 28 November 2018: Right International Spain “Recommendations to the Parliamentary Groups for the reform of the Organic Law 4/2015, on the Protection of Citizen Security”. Read here:


UPDATE – 17 October 2018: El Pais “Spanish government backtracks on reforms to controversial “gag law”. Pedro Sánchez’s administration has softened its hard-line position and wants to save key sections on express deportations and the filming of police officers. […] The PSOE has also toned down its opposition to the sanctions against people who film and share images of police officers. While it previously wanted to eliminate the sanctions, which are included under Article 36.23, it now wants them to apply only when the use of the images “endangers the personal security” of the officers or their family, or endangers “the success of an operation.”

Podemos representatives, led by Ione Belarra, and a government delegation met for the first time on October 3 to discuss the reform of the Public Safety Law. The outcome of the negotiations was included in the budget agreement signed between Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Sánchez eight days later. The Spanish prime minister heads a minority government with just 84 lawmakers in the 350-seat Congress, and depends on support of the deputies from Podemos.” Read more:


(25 June 2018 – El Pais) The socialist-parliamentary group has begun contact with other parties to accelerate the process of reforming the norm approved by the PP in 2015

Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) is in talks with other groups in Congress to kick-start work to reform a controversial piece of legislation known officially as the Citizen Safety Law, and popularly as the “Gag Law.”

The new PSOE administration of Pedro Sánchez wants to start working on repealing the most contentious items of the law by September, and to have a final text ready to submit to Congress by the end of the year.

Only the Popular Party (PP), which passed the law in 2015, opposes an in-depth review that Sánchez described as “urgent” three weeks ago during a no-confidence vote that toppled the PP government of Mariano Rajoy.

When the Citizen Safety Law went into effect in July 2015, the opposition accused the government of creating “a police state” because it gave law-enforcement officers the power to hand out administrative sanctions that were, until then, the sole preserve of judges.

Because it cracked down on public protests, particularly around Congress, critics said it was the government’s way of suppressing citizen discontent over the protracted economic crisis and political corruption scandals.

Two options
There are currently two reform options on the table. One is a PSOE proposal that suggests repealing the law altogether and going back to an earlier version of the citizen safety law dating back to 1992. A second possibility, suggested by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), is to tweak the existing law by modifying its most controversial aspects.

The PP, which chairs the congressional committee in charge of debating the changes, has delayed the start of work on the basis of this duality. Commission Chair Rafael Merino has denied that the delay is politically motivated, and says that if one of the two proposals were to be eliminated, “everything would be a lot simpler.”

Recent talks between the PSOE and PNV suggest that the former might pull their plan. “This would avoid problems and shorten the duration of work,” admitted David Serrada, one of three PSOE deputies involved in the task force.

Sources at the leftist Unidos Podemos said they would rather repeal the existing law altogether and draft a new one from scratch

The Basque nationalists want to modify 44 points of the Gag Law and add three provisions to protect freedom of assembly and demonstration, trade union freedom and freedom to strike, which they feel have been threatened by the current law.

Ciudadanos, the fourth-largest party in Congress, approves of the PNV’s proposal. Committee member Miguel Gutiérrez said he has had “informal” talks with other political groups. “All the groups in parliament, except for the PP, have the will to change the law. There shouldn’t be any trouble doing so quickly if we have a single bill to work with,” said Gutiérrez.

But sources at the leftist Unidos Podemos said they would rather repeal the existing law altogether and draft a new one from scratch.

A promise
“The government that emerges from this no-confidence motion will start work on repealing the most virulent aspects of the Gag Law,” said Pedro Sánchez as he addressed Congress three weeks ago, while still head of the main opposition party.

Some of the more controversial items in the law were appealed by opposition parties before the Constitutional Court as soon as they went into force, such as Section 20.2, which allows for bodily searches that could require partial or complete nudity, or Section 36.2, which punished demonstrations in front of Congress of the Senate. The Constitutional Court has yet to hand down a decision.

Featured image by PEPE MARÍN via El Pais