A WOMAN has been fined €800 under Spain's new 'Public Safety Law' for posting a photo of a police patrol car illegally parked on Facebook.
She had caught the vehicle on camera in a disabled bay and uploaded it onto her site, captioned with “You can park wherever you [expletive] like and you won't even get fined.”
It took just two days for the Local Police in her home town of Petrer (Alicante province) to find her from her Facebook site and slap a fine notice on her under what has been dubbed the 'gagging law' due to its severe restrictions on public behaviour.
Using photographs of police officers in the course of duty which 'could endanger their or their families' safety' or interfere with their work is subject to fines ranging from €600 to €30,000, which is why the woman – who has not been named – had to pay up.
According to a Local Police spokesman, Fernando Portillo, the officer in question had left his patrol car in a disabled parking space because he and his colleague had been called out because of a 'vandalism incident' in a park close by.
They needed to leave their car as near as possible to the crime scene to enable them to catch the culprits in the act, said Portillo, and adds that police have the legal right to park wherever they need to in an emergency, even if this is not a legal space.
Despite the law only applying a fine if the photo taken, and its subsequent use 'puts the officer in danger', Portillo said this could rightly be inferred because the Facebook user in question had 'attacked the good name of' the force and the two policemen.
He said he 'would have liked to have seen a different outcome' to the situation, but that the officers in question 'are legally entitled to' issue a fine.
Insulting an authority figure on one's own Facebook or Twitter site can also carry financial penalties – a woman recently called the mayor of her town a 'brazen scoundrel' on Facebook and was fined for doing so.
Throwaway comments of varying severity wishing violence or death on unpopular politicians on Twitter and Facebook have also landed users in trouble with the police – including a 21-year-old man from the province of Valencia who praised the women who murdered the MP for the PP in León, Isabel Carrasco.
Staging a demonstration near a government building, or in a public area such as a street or car park without permission – even if it is a silent one with just a crowd of people holding banners – can earn those involved fines ranging from €30,000 to €600,000.
Silent sitting protests in the street, even in non-restricted areas, or attempts to stop a homeowner being evicted after the property is repossessed carry similar sanctions.
Drinking alcohol or possession of drugs, including cannabis, in the street, whether or not these are being consumed, can attract fines of between €300 and €60,000.
Four people in Córdoba sitting down eating pizza on a park bench say they were fined €300 for 'drinking alcohol in public', but insisted the bottles they carried contained non-alcoholic beverages.
Alongside these hefty sanctions, cruelty to or neglect of animals is subject to a fine of just €100.
Amnesty International, among other global organisations, has already warned Spain about allowing the 'Public Safety Law' to come into force, saying it borders on 'repression' and 'censorship'.
The public's right to demonstrate peacefully is effectively withdrawn as a result, with those merely marching silently and carrying an inoffensive banner often being manhandled or fined in the same way as those who create a disturbance – and taking photos of officers is usually necessary for a demonstrator to fight his or her case in the event of excessive force or unfair arrest, says Amnesty International Spain spokeswoman Virginia Álvarez.
She says the global action group has been 'covering the impunity of Spain's police for many years' and that it has grave concerns about the 'undemocratic' and 'extortionist' nature of the 'gagging law'.
All other parties in government have said they will scrap it immediately if they get into power this autumn after the general elections.