A Barcelona judge has condemned journalist Alfonso Rojo and the media outlet he runs, Periodista Digital, for violation of the right to honor for several articles published in 2016 in which he describes himself as “criminals”, “ETA”, “proetarras” and “titirietarras” to the two puppeteers who in 2016 spent five days in prison after performing a play in which one of the fictional characters carried a banner with the slogan “Gora Alka-ETA”. The judge considers that the articles contain expressions “unequivocally injurious, offensive, vexatious, outrageous and unnecessary” and obliges the company and its director to compensate each of the actors with 20,000 euros.
The judge files the case of hate crimes against the puppeteers
The judgment, dated November 13, considers that the repeated use of these terms implies an illegitimate interference in the right to honor of artists not covered by freedom of information, since, among other reasons, the requirement of the truthfulness that is required so that freedom of information can prevail over the right to honor. “None of the articles provides information or refers to sources of evidence that corroborate the actors’ membership or ties to the terrorist group ETA, nor that they are habitual criminals,” the judge maintains.
The resolution of the Court of First Instance number 10 of Barcelona, which is not final, also explains that the aforementioned expressions are also not related to the information and to the ideas or opinions that are exposed in the articles examined, which dealt with the legal consequences, political and social aspects of the puppet performance by the actors, who were investigated for the crime of glorifying terrorism and hate crime. Both were exonerated in the two processes that were followed against them. In the National Court, first; and in a court in Madrid, later.
“This is how the media left defends the ETA puppeteers”, “The councilor of the titirietarras founded a white label of Batasuna”, “One of the titirietarras of Carmena militates in an anarchist group that visits ETA prisoners” or “One of the titirietarras de Carmena militates in an anarchist group that visits ETA prisoners ”are the headlines of some of the articles that are the object of the lawsuit imposed by the puppeteers, in which they requested to be compensated with 120,000 euros each.
In the opinion of the artists, these articles “falsely” linked them to the terrorist group ETA “as a means of attacking the leaders of the City Council who had promoted their hiring, as well as different public figures who later positioned themselves in relation to the arrest of the same”. And they did so “without this link being neutral and based on facts”, but “with reckless disregard for the truth” and with the aforementioned names of “criminals”, “ETA”, “proetarras” and even “titirietarras”.
In their response to the complaint, Alfonso Rojo and Periodista Digital framed these expressions in the right to freedom of information, expression and opinion and emphasized that they referred to “facts of marked public interest.” They also alleged that the puppeteers had not credited the publicity of the messages or the approximate number of people who could receive the information; or that the expression “titiretarra” is a “humorous” expression framed in sarcastic criticism.
The defense of Rojo and the media outlet he directs at first tried to deny the existence of some of those articles – which are deleted from the Periodista Digital website – but after the contribution of an expert report by the lawyers of the puppeteers admitted that they were published. Of course, they alluded to the fact that the current content of the publications does not contain such expressions to affirm that the “alleged damage” is “enormously less than the alleged”.
The controversy over the puppeteers dates back to February 2016, when the two actors were arrested without being able to finish the performance they were performing in a Madrid square after being hired by the City Council that Manuela Carmen then directed. The work was a satirical criticism of society directed at an adult audience that, by mistake, was advertised through other channels within children’s programming.
In one sequence, a puppet-policeman placed a poster over the protagonist, who was unconscious at the time, with the legend “GORA ALKA-ETA”, in order to take a photograph of her and thus get her to be unfairly prosecuted by a crime of terrorism. That scene led to their being denounced, detained and investigated for exalting terrorism at the National High Court. They spent five days in provisional prison. The special court closed the case in June of that year and referred it to a Madrid court to analyze whether a hate crime had been committed. The Investigative Court number 46 of the capital filed that case in January 2017.