IFJ Welcomes Acquittal of Five Basque Journalists Prosecuted since 2003 in Spain

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today welcomed the acquittal of five journalists and leaders of Egunkaria newspaper which was the only title published entirely in the Basque language (Euskara) until its closure in February 2003 following allegations of association with the terrorist organisation ETA.

"The Closure of a newspaper is not something to be decided lightly in a democracy," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "And it should not have happened in this case where in the end even the prosecutor had to drop charges against the five accused journalists. It has caused lasting damage to the newspaper which will be hard to repair. The Spanish authorities must take their responsibilities for this long and unfortunate closure which deprived the Basque language readers of a voice of pluralism for too many years."

One different accused in the Egunkaria case was released some time ago by the Spanish justice authorities and another sentenced in the last seven years in another case related to ETA.

In its ruling, the court today rejected demands by two associations of terrorism victims for jail terms ranging between 12 and 14 years, holding that there is no "basis in the Spanish Constitution for closing the Egunkaria newspaper and that newspapers which are entitled to press freedom right cannot be considered as other enterprises". The Spanish Audiencia Nacional Court (the Spanish Court that handles cases related to terrorism) was highly critical of Judge Del Olmo's first instance judgment for its "erroneous and narrow views that sees ETA expression in both the Basque language and culture".

The accused journalists and the management of the newspaper Egunkaria have always denied the alleged links with ETA. The closure of Egunkaria newspaper led to numerous petitions, protests and demonstrations demanding the reopening of the newspaper and the acquittal of the accused.

The associations of terrorism victims still have the opportunity to appeal this decision and another investigation into the financing of the newspaper is still in progress.

For more information contact the IFJ at     +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide