SPAIN: Statement about the Spanish new Royal Decree-Law of public security


(Associació Amical Wikimedia)

On November 5th, The Official State Gazette (BOE) published the Royal Decree-Law 14/2019 (link), which was passed on October 31st, whereby the General State Administration reserves the right to suspend, exceptionally and precautionary, the transmission of data and the connection to Internet claiming reasons of public order.

According to Chapter IV, modification of the Law 9/2014 of General Telecommunications, the State reserves the right to take over any types of infrastructure, network, service or digital resource that may affect public security within the framework of national defense. The power of immediate action is granted to the Government of Spain for the closure of websites and other services through the Ministry of Economy and Business, as well as the control and operation of all networks during transitory periods described as exceptional. No prior judicial requirement is needed.

From Amical Wikimedia we hereby express our profound disagreement with this new decree and our growing concern for the restriction of digital rights in Spanish territory. First of all, the lack of debate on this law in Parliament, its approval under a caretaker government, during the electoral campaign and under the formula of a royal decree-law represents a drastic regression of the freedom to information in key moments. Secondly, vaguely defined concepts such as “national security,” “public order,” “transitional period,” or “exceptional situation” allow for indiscriminate action based on political interests for the repression of ideological dissent.

Thirdly, we are concerned that the preambule of this law contextualizes and aims to justify the adopted measures for the ongoing socio-political mobilizations in different areas of the Spanish territory. Amical Wikimedia, in this regard, has previously declared itself in favor of the organization of actions that defend basic civil rights and the freedom of expression throughout all the Catalan-speaking areas. The abovementioned decree seriously violates the freedom of information, which should be open and accessible to the public as is the case of Wikipedia and its sister projects. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

There are recent precedents of digital censorship which have had very serious social impact. In February 2014, the Turkish parliament passed the Law No. 5651, granting new powers to the state telecommunications authority regarding Internet regulation. A few years later, on April 2017 and making use of this law, access to all idiomatic versions of Wikipedia were blocked based on Turkish Government claims of state-funded terrorism on the English Wikipedia.

For all these reasons, Amical Wikimedia reaffirms its rejection of this decree-law and demands its immediate withdrawal. Our organisation stands unequivocally in favor of digital freedom and the human rights of expression, peaceful assembly, and access to information.