The Government Will Eliminate Prison Sentences For Crimes Of Expression

The government will propose a review of the “most controversial” crimes related to freedom of expression to prevent them from leading to prison sentences. As reported by Moncloa in a brief statement sent at the edge of nine o’clock this Monday night, the reform will only punish behaviors that “clearly” pose a risk to public order or the provocation of some type of violent incident and only with dissuasive penalties, not deprivation of liberty as is the case today.

Specifically, the crime of exalting terrorism and humiliating the victims, the hate crime, the crimes of insults to the Crown and other State institutions and the crimes against religious feelings will be the object of reform. These criminal offenses have given rise in recent years to a battery of judicial procedures that worries the lawyers most committed to freedom of expression. The announcement comes after this Monday more than 200 artists have signed a manifesto to support rapper Pablo Hasel before his imminent entry into prison after being convicted of uttering messages against the Crown and the Police in tweets and songs.


The Government defends that it is necessary to bet on a “restrictive interpretation” of these crimes due to the difficult delimitation between the exercise of fundamental right and criminal conduct. Likewise, they maintain that their reform is justified because these criminal offenses suffer from “a certain lack of definition of the protected legal right” and because they generate “insecurity” due to the extent of the conduct described in the norm. “All these issues are requirements of precision and restriction of these crimes, required by the Constitutional Court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and European Law,” say sources from the Ministry of Justice.

On the other hand, the Government has announced that the proposal will consider that those “verbal excesses” committed “in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual manifestations” remain “outside of criminal punishment.” The Executive assures that criminal law “is neither the most useful tool, nor is it necessary, nor is it certainly provided to respond to behaviors that, even though it may border on illegality, its criminal punishment would be a discouragement for freedom of expression, such and as the Constitutional Court, the ECHR, the European Union and most of the Spanish doctrine have declared ”.

The so-called discouragement effect or chilling effect, in the widespread terminology in English, refers to the possibility that a norm, applied in a certain way, may dissuade citizens from exercising a fundamental right in the future and even lead them to self-censorship in terms of political criticism for fear that any excess will be sanctioned, given the media coverage that accompanies this type of sentence.

The Government’s announcement comes amid the controversy over the imminent entry into prison of rapper Pablo Hasel after being sentenced to nine months in prison for a crime of glorifying terrorism, and insults and slanders against the monarchy and the security forces and bodies of the State for the messages he wrote on his Twitter account and expressed in his songs posted on YouTube, in one of the first cases in which those convicted of so-called ‘crimes of opinion’ ended up in prison.

Precisely this Monday, more than 200 artists from different cultural disciplines, including the singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat or the filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, have signed a manifesto to support the rapper. The text calls for the singer’s freedom and accuses the Spanish State of “equating itself to countries such as Turkey or Morocco, which also have several artists imprisoned for denouncing the abuses committed by the State.”

Consulted by, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that this possible reform would not influence a hypothetical request for pardon by the rapper who, on the other hand, has stated that he does not plan to request that grace measure because he does not have “nothing” to regret.



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