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US newspaper The New York Times has warned that freedom of expression is at risk in Spain following recent cases like the imprisonment of the rapper Valtonyc and the censorship of an artwork entitled Political prisoners in contemporary Spain at the Arco art fair in Madrid.

An article by Raphael Minder, the paper's correspondent in Madrid, published today doesn't pull its punches: "Whether by law or intimidation, Spain has become a country where the risks of free expression have quietly mounted in recent years".

As well as the Arco case, and Valtonyc, sentenced to three and a half years for charges including insulting the monarchy, he also mentions a judge's decision to halt distribution of a book, Fariña, about drug-trafficking in Galicia and two puppeteers that "authorities said glorified terrorism and promoted hatred". The charges against the puppeteers were eventually dismissed by a judge.

Minder similarly describes the "much criticized law" which prohibits filming "the faces of police officers on the streets, and sharply restricts public gatherings". He also mentions the arrest warrant issued for Anna Gabriel, and Gabriel's claims that she cannot be guaranteed a fair trial in Spain.

The correspondent criticises the trend exemplified by his numerous examples. On the fair, he notes that it has "exhibited controversial pieces in the past", citing Eugenio Merino's work Always Franco.