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Press Groups Condemn Spanish Attacks

Larry Kilman

Director of Communications
World Association of Newspapers

The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum have  registered an alarming increase in complaints from publishers, editors and  reporters in the Basque region of Spain about pressure and attacks on media staff by the radical Basque nationalist organisation ETA and its supporters.

"The situation is grave," said Roger Parkinson, President of WAN, in the run-up to the Basque elections on Sunday (13 May). "ETA is trying to establish a regime of intimidation and fear in the media world. The stakes are high and the danger is real.

During a recent mission to the Spanish cities of Madrid, Bilbao and San  Sebastian, a delegation from the Paris-based WAN and WEF visited media and  political parties to investigate attacks on the press in this troubled region in the middle of the European Union. The WAN/WEF delegation met leading politicians from both national and Basque parties, including the Spanish Prime Minister, José Maria Aznar, and newspaper editors in both Madrid and the Basque country.

"When journalists have to begin their day on their hands and knees looking for bombs under their cars, when steel doors and refined arms and bomb detectors have to be installed in newspaper offices and printing plants, when journalists cannot fetch their children after school or eat in the same restaurant two nights in a row, there is no freedom of expression," WAN and the WEF said.

The full report on the mission is available on the WAN web site at 
www.wan-press.org/pf/europe/basque.report (English only) or from the WAN Secretariat by request.

ETA last year killed one of the leading journalists in the Basque region, José Luis Lopez de la Calle of El Mundo. It was also responsible for several attempted murders including: that of Carlos Herrera, a reporter with Spanish National Public Radio, who received a packet bomb; Jesús María Zuloaga, a  journalist with the Madrid daily La Razón, who received a letter-bomb; and  Aurora Intxausti, the San Sebastian correspondent of El Pais, and her  husband, Juan Palomo, a journalist with Antena 3 TV, by placing a bomb outside their apartment.

In January, it was revealed that an ETA unit in Barcelona had also tried to  kill Luis del Olmo, the renowned radio journalist; in March, the offices of  El Correo in Bilbao were hit by a 'rain' of Molotov cocktails; documentation obtained by the police when they arrested the alleged assassin of Lopez de la Calle showed that the ETA also had plans to blow up the El Diario Vasco newspaper in Bilbao.

The WAN/WEF report concludes that media professionals in Spain and especially in the Basque country continue to be attacked, intimidated and harassed by ETA, the terrorist movement fighting for an independent Basque nation.

The report said the atmosphere of intimidation and fear is making it impossible for those journalists targeted to live a normal life, privately and professionally.

The WAN and WEF do not have any political agenda. The mission was set up for  solely professional reasons. The two organizations recognize that other groups also are being assaulted and killed, but the focus of the mission was the media.

"WAN and WEF strongly condemns the attacks and the intimidation of the free  press and encourages all Spanish and foreign media professionals to unambiguously join the protest against ETA¹s terror," the report said. "We also encourage journalists from the international media community to express and show solidarity with their threatened colleagues in Spain and the Basque  country."

The two organizations also appealed to political leaders and media professionals to refrain from any speech or writing that can be used to build up hatred against specific groups or individuals, particularly in coverage of the Sunday elections.

WAN and WEF also encourage the professional media organizations in Spain to clearly express their condemnation of the ongoing ETA campaign against Spanish media professionals and to take every practical step to assist their colleagues in obtaining the conditions for free and independent journalism.

The delegation included the President of the association, Roger Parkinson, the Director General, Timothy Balding, and the Director of the World Editors  Forum, Mogens Schmidt.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organization for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 17,000 newspapers; its membership includes 67 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 93 countries, 17 news agencies and eight  regional and world-wide press groups.

May 13, 2001

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