Press freedom in Catalonia

How have Rafael Ramos, Josep Maria Casasús and other disgraces to journalism been able to survive so long at La Vanguardia? One reason is that the paper’s finely-tuned editorial line resulted in enough favours in cash and in kind from the old Pujol/CiU regional administration to free it from the pressures faced, and the standards maintained, by a normal media business. An anonymous report obtained from somewhere close to the new government and available in Catalan here (2.5MB, PDF) has caused a huge scandal this morning. This is because it (a) documents past corruption of the news media by CiU and the PP, and (b) seems to propose the continued use of regional state funds to refocus editorial policy to a position that is even more radically national-statist.

Everyone here with two ears and a brain between (or a copy of English-language monthly, Barcelona Business) has been aware of the corruption for years. The most clear-cut case is pro-CiU Catalan-language Avui, which sells less than 30,000 daily and is still here only because its major creditors, the tax and social security authorities, refuse to send in the bailiffs. Most other examples are more complex but are characterised by consistent and what an uninformed observer might assume to be highly profitable conflicts of interest. It is understandable therefore that papers which did best out of the previous arrangement are seeking to divert all attention from this aspect, and La Vanguardia editor José Antich’s piece this morning is a peculiarly vicious and stupid example of spin.

However, although the refusal of these zombie cheerleaders to face up to their moral failure is despicable, the document in question is just as vile, because it seeks to legitimise monopolistic control over what we read, write, think. A functioning democracy requires news media that are fair, free and accountable, and the political consensus here that fairness, freedom, and accountability are an infernal trinity is why Catalonia continues to hobble along in post-Franquista mode.

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  1. The best thing about the Vanguardia is a paper owned by a f***ing Count is always telling the Americans how to run a democracy.

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