MADRID – Spain is considering a ban on photographing, filming or reproducing images of police and state security forces who are on duty, officials said Friday.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said the government is considering prohibiting the capture, playback and processing of images, sounds or data of security forces while "in the exercise of their functions."
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said after months of television and Internet scenes of sometimes violent clashes between police and demonstrators, a balance had to be struck "between citizens' right to protest" and the need "to uphold the integrity of state security forces."
The government's plans were unveiled a day after Spain's director general of police, Cosido Ignacio, said efforts are under way to secure such a ban.
At the government's weekly Cabinet news conference, Saenz de Santamaria was repeatedly asked by journalists from several media organizations how the measure would affect press freedom.
"This is a complex issue, but we will try to find a balance," she said, adding that the task of government was to protect all its citizens.
Fernandez Diaz said, "We do not intend to stop the press from doing its job of taking pictures of police charges and other proceedings. But we understand that in anti-terrorist operations or against mafias you have to have a more careful approach when it comes to disseminating images."
Fernandez Diaz echoed Ignacio's words by saying the "dignity of police and security forces has to be upheld."
Many Spaniards have been shocked by images of violence between police and protesters, especially after television images of clashes near Parliament on Sept. 25 showed several protesters bloodied and in need of medical attention.
Anti-austerity demonstrations have turned violent this year in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, as well as in rural mining locations in the north.
On one day in March, authorities arrested 176 protesters across Spain and said 104 people were injured in clashes, including 58 police officers.
Angel Casana, a lead writer for the national newspaper El Mundo, said in an online editorial that photography had changed the course of history and that the government's proposed measure could have a negative impact on news gathering.
"If this proposal goes ahead, it is going to be impossible to know about events as they occur on the streets just at a time when streets are at boiling point due to the dire economic situation of many families," said Casana.