While authorities in the United States are working to equip police officers with body cameras to cut abuse and violence, Spain has enacted a new gagging rule barring citizens from sharing photos of law enforcement officials.
The Citizens Security Law, which came into effect last month, prohibits “the unauthorized use of images of police officers that might jeopardize their or their family’s safety or that of protected facilities or police operations.” The offenders face fines or other punishment.
As extreme as it sounds, the controversial law has just been used against a woman in southeastern Spain for sharing a photo of a police car parked in an illegal spot.
A female resident of Petrer in Alicante, Spain, reportedly posted the photo on her Facebook page with the caption: “Park where you bloody well please and you won’t even be fined.”
Unfortunately for her, the police did not take the jab lightly and tracked her down within 48 hours. She has been fined 800 euros (about $900) for criticizing the law enforcement agency on social media.
As Guardian reports, the officers had allegedly parked their vehicle in the disabled bay because they had been called in to deal with an incident of vandalism nearby. In their haste to catch the “in flagranti,” they parked the car in the first available parking spot, according to Fernando Portillo, a spokesman for the local police.
As for the severity and risk the Facebook photo posed, Portillo said the woman had impugned the officers’ honor by sharing the picture – even though the image did not show any police officers, just the car.
“We would have preferred a different solution but they have the legal right to impose the fine,” he added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the town administration said that they wished the matter had been resolved in a different manner, adding that the new law allowed the police to avenge their dishonor this way.
The gagging law, which also prohibits demonstrations in the vicinity of parliament or the senate, has been publicly condemned by the activists and human rights groups ever since it was introduced earlier this year.
“With threats of fines or threats of being beaten, the government is trying to stigmatize and criminalize people who are just practicing their rights,” Amnesty International stated in its report. “The impunity of police in Spain is something we've been covering for many years. But now we're seeing it in the distinct context of social protest.”