Protest against manipulation and censorship
The editors of the Spanish radio station RTVE protest against manipulation and censorship. The accusations are directed against the Spanish governing party Partido Popular. The employees are now rehearsing the uprising against their own station.
For five weeks now, the same pictures have been on TVE every Friday. The viewers of the Spanish public television see black in the truest sense of the word. The presenters are dressed in black, like news woman Ana Blanco, the correspondents wear black at the switches, whether from New York, Paris or Rome, and the editors at TVE’s desks are also dressed in black. They are all protesting against what they see as the open manipulation of the news on their station.
Government party exerts influence
Gabriel López is a political correspondent in Madrid. This morning, the National Court of Justice will broadcast a live report on current politics several times. He also wears a black jacket and later explains why. “At RTVE, the president is appointed directly by the ruling party Partido Popular. You can feel this in almost every political message. Anything that harms the Partido Popular should be omitted, and anything in favour of the ruling party should be allowed to be broadcast.”
Like Alejandro Caballero, López is a member of the editorial committee of the RTVE broadcasting company, whose television division is TVE. The two editors are not afraid to give us an interview, as their membership in the “Consejo de Informativos” gives them special protection against dismissal. They give us examples of manipulations that they no longer want to put up with. “After all, we are journalists and not vicarious agents of Rajoy’s Partido Popular,” says Caballero, who is the chairman of the editorial committee.
Derailment of Rajoys communications chief not sent
Only recently there had been another significant example of manipulation. When Mariano Rajoy was booed out by angry pensioners at the beginning of May, the cameras also recorded the words of his communications manager Carmen Martínez Castro. You could clearly hear them say: “What a great desire I would have to show them a big stinky finger and tell them: ‘fuck you'”.
A scandal, at least for almost all television stations in Spain that reported in detail on 5 May, not for TVE. “It was only two days later, when many radio programmes and newspapers were full of the topic and Carmen Martinez Castro had to publicly apologise, that we made it a subject for the first time. The apology was our first priority,” says Gabriel López. The original sound with the disrespectful words of the head of communications had not been broadcast on TVE until today.
Little coverage of allegations of corruption
The corruption scandal, in which Rajoy’s Partido Popular is deeply involved, is also not adequately dealt with by RTVE. If someone from Partido Popular is once again quoted or arrested in court on corruption charges, or if a new charge arises, this is often not presented at all or is presented at the back of the programme.
On 8 November last year, for example, there was an important hearing of the chief investigator in the so-called belt affair. Manuel Morocho (UDEF) was asked whether, according to his findings, it was likely that Mariano Rajoy had also collected money from illicit funds. His answer was: “Yes, that can be assumed”. Not a single picture or word about it on RTVE that day, unlike most other channels. “The head of government himself is probably involved in a corruption scandal, and it’s not an issue for us? Gabriel López and Alejandro Caballero, like many of their colleagues, have a hard time. There are hundreds of such examples, they say, and it is significant that the protest is now so great.
No independent reporting on Catalonia
Again and again there is talk of Catalonia when it comes to manipulation. Gabriel López says that as a journalist for TVE he is ashamed of reporting on the independence referendum on 1 October. There had been no special reporting because the TVE management had adopted the government’s position that there had been no referendum in Catalonia. The massive police violence against peaceful Catalan demonstrators on that day was also seen only to a very limited extent by RTVE and in the later discussion rounds no representative of the independence supporters was invited. This has nothing to do with objective, pluralistic reporting, López and Caballero say. It was therefore no wonder that so many would follow the protest.
It is also spread in the social media. On Twitter, for example, there is the Hashtag #AsiSeManipula under which many editors of RTVE make concrete manipulations public. The employees have joined forces under @MujeresRtve and publish pictures of the protests, videos of supporters and, for example, of their recent trip to Brussels. The RTVE employees have also recently spoken and received support in front of the European Parliament. Brussels has now asked Madrid for its opinion on the matter.
RTVE reform blocked?
The reason for the statement is also that the ruling party Partido Popular is of the opinion that Reporters Without Borders and the Spanish opposition, for example, are also blocking a reform of RTVE. Last September, a clear majority in Parliament voted in favour of replacing the TVE directorate and not appointing it solely by the ruling party. However, this is not being implemented because the PP, with its absolute majority in the Senate, is preventing the reform. Ramon Moreno, media policy spokesman for the Partido Popular, does not want to know about a blockade in the interview. The implementation of the law would take time and, incidentally, the protest would not be supported by a majority of the TVE staff.
Carmen Sastre, TVE’s deputy head of news, has similar comments. When asked about the fact that even the host of the main news programme in the evening, Ana Blanco, is now appearing in black in protest, as well as countless correspondents and editors, Carmen Sastre is unimpressed. There is also no manipulation or censorship, one would report balanced and neutral. Carmen Sastre emphasises that she has nothing against the fact that there will soon be a reform at TVE, that the management will no longer be determined solely by the ruling party. However, there is no influence on TVE’s programme by the ruling Partido Popular.
Many of its employees definitely take a different view. They will continue to broadcast black every Friday until the PP government finally approves the TVE reform law. “We are not demanding anything unusual,” says Gabriel López, “but something that should be taken for granted: That we as journalists can report freely and balanced, independent of political influences”.