Tsavkko Garcia, Raphael
Publication year: 2018

BORN in the small Basque town of Amurrio in northern Spain, Alfredo Remírez, 37, became the first twitter user to enter prison, on November 4 2017, as part of “Operation Spider”, commanded by the Spanish Civil Guard. The operation was a crackdown on “extolling terrorism” in social media, but which, according to Amnesty International, imposes “unjustified restrictions on the rights to freedom of information, expression and assembly”, noting that between 2016 and 2017 alone 28 people were convicted of such crime,  most of them within the limits of the Spider Operation.

His crime was to write welcome messages, on Twitter, to several prisoners who left incarceration. In addition, he paraphrased a song stating that a Spanish General deserved to be shot in the back of his neck. Nevertheless he never acted or asked anyone to act to achieve this goal. It was a way to express frustration and blow out some steam.

The operation had four phases, from April 2014 to April 2016, and about 76 people were indicted. Many have sought to reach agreements to avoid jail time, others are still awaiting trial.

The Spider Operation inaugurated a new phase of judicial prosecution and limitation of freedom of expression in Spain. After Remírez conviction, others followed. From simple users of social networks to journalists and musicians.

The criminalisation of music and musicians which express anger and anguish through controversial songs became recurrent –  either as part of investigations within the Spider Operation, or in isolated legal proceedings (although, many suspect, everything is coordinated), in order to silence dissenting voices at all social levels.

Full article at CommonSpace’s website. Date of publication: 15/06/2018

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