There was a time in Spain during the Franco dictatorship, when the Ministry of Information was responsible for controlling information and censorship of press and radio. In the whole period from 1951 when it was created, until 1977 when it was abolished, it only had eight directors, although none were so famous and controversial as Manuel Fraga Iribarne. A number of newspaper editors have recounted the details of their relationship with Spanish censorship during those years, and so have numerous artists and cultural professionals. Singers in the Catalan Nova Cançó (New Song) movement faced continual searches and their lyrics underwent real censorship, especially after the emergence of broad-format shows by artists such as Quico Pi de la Serra, Raimon, Maria del Mar Bonet, Ovidi Montllor and, of course, Lluís Llach.
I remember Llach explaining in one of his farewell concerts that one of his most successful songs, L'Estaca (The Stake), had at first been authorized by the Franco regime and then was later banned. But when it came to applying the prohibition, the song was by then so famous that it was the audience who sang it; the lyrics had become a symbol of opposition to the regime. How the Spanish powers love to order and prohibit! Deep down, the years of dictatorship have left a residue that is sometimes indiscernible but often rises to the surface when there is conflict. It is seen in an authoritarian attitude, a 'command and control' mindset, which anyone who has a little power, even for a short period, tends to exercise. And which sometimes leads to situations that border on the absurd.
We have seen in recent days how the judges that comprise Spain's Central Electoral Commission have ruled that the Catalan public media controlled by the Catalan Broadcasting Corporation, that is, TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio, must not refer to jailed political leaders as "political prisoners" or to members of the Catalan government residing in Brussels as "exiles". It's of no matter that the Electoral Commission's decision is a nonsense, what it is about is that political prisoners and exiles must not be talked about. Will they, perhaps, stop being political prisoners and exiles simply because they aren't labelled as such? What world do these black-toga-clad judges live in?
A similar battle took place with the yellow ribbons and the ban on displaying this symbol on the balcony of the Catalan government's Generalitat palace. The Electoral Commission forced the withdrawal of the symbol, but far from winning a battle, it lost, because today there are many ways to end up defeated. When you end up fighting a battle against yellow ribbons and against words like "exiles" and "political prisoners," the very least that happens is that you get frustrated because people choose their own paths. Freedom of expression is exactly that: to say things as they are, and no one will convince me that Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Oriol Junqueras, Carme Forcadell, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva, Dolor Bassa and Quim Forn are not political prisoners and that Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret, Lluís Puig, Marta Rovira and Anna Gabriel are not exiled.
The force of words and of the truth is not controlled by those who hold power, and even less so if that power is exercised in an authoritarian way.