This Friday, Sumar passed its first law in Congress. The letter of presentation of the coalition led by Yolanda Díaz is a proposal that aspires to eliminate from Penal Code the crimes of glorifying terrorism, insults to the Crown, outrage to the country or against religious feelings, among others, with the argument of guaranteeing and protecting “freedom of expression” and strengthening civil and fundamental rights “curtailed by the PP”.
The bill thus takes up an old demand from Unidas Podemos and pro-independence parties such as ERC or EH Bildu that has been going on for many years in Congress but has never achieved its objectives. And the last legislature was when it came closest to achieving it, because the PSOE gave its support to process two initiatives with similar content to the one presented today. However, those two bills from June 2021 and September 2022 ended up in a drawer during the amendment period.
The deputy of United Left (IU) Enrique Santiago presented Sumar’s bill this Friday at a press conference in Congress, where he justified that this is the first norm presented by the coalition, saying that it is time to make an effort to “recover civil liberties” while that there are rulings from the European Court of Human Rights that “disgrace” Spain by saying that “norms in this sense cannot be applied.” “We have to correct an anomaly that Spain has in its legislation,” he stressed.
The bill is a reform of the Penal Code that proposes protecting “freedom of expression” in cases in which it is now persecuted. Thus, one of the changes proposed is to eliminate the crime of glorification of terrorism (article 578), and Santiago argues that it is now serving to persecute “singers and puppeteers.” Instead, Sumar proposes including victims of terrorism among the groups that deserve “special protection”, so that the prosecution of insults or slander against them is articulated through aggravating circumstances.
On the other hand, the initiative eliminates the crime of insult to the Crown. Santiago has assured that his elimination “does not generate insecurity or defenselessness” because the members of the Royal House will also be protected for the crimes of insults and slander. The existence of this crime, says Sumar, constitutes “a true attack against freedom of expression.” “The more power an institution has, the greater the exposure to legitimate criticism by citizens must be. Otherwise, political freedom and democracy cannot be understood,” the bill argues.
It is also proposed to eliminate article 543, which is the offenses or outrages against Spain, the autonomous communities or the flags. Sumar justifies that this classification is serving to repress criticism against the country’s symbols, especially the flag or the national anthem. “Silencing the anthem does not entail an attack against the country, but rather a legitimate expression of freedom of expression,” the coalition explains in the statement of reasons.
Refering to offense to religious feelingswhich is included in article 525 of the Penal Code, its suppression is proposed because criticism through “mockery, satire or any type of opinion against religious confessions, dogmas or beliefs “is protected by freedom of expression.” Thus, it is warns that in recent years this article has served to open accusations against artistic montages with religious images. Sumar assures that religious freedom in Spain is “sufficiently included” in other articles of the Penal Code such as the discriminatory crime and incitement to hatred .
Another article that also wants to be eliminated is 504, which refers to insults to the Government of the nation, the CGPJ or the Constitutional Court. The IU deputy has specified that although “it has practically never been applied”, “it has no reason to exist”, since all the members of these institutions are individually protected by the Penal Code.
The Sumar reform proposes a modification of article 538 to establish a strict regime that prevents public officials from limiting the exercise of freedom of expression, either through prior censorship of publications or by preventing collective or coercive identification based on characteristics. union, religious, social or political.