Press Law

Press Law
   The Ley de Prensa e Imprenta (1966) was an attempt by the then Minister for Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, to introduce a modest liberalization of the laws affecting printed matter. The Press Law abolished censura previa (prepublication censorship) for newspapers, but this did not mean complete removal of restrictions. Criticism of Franco, the Falange, the armed forces or the basic structure of the regime was still outlawed, and publishers, editors and journalists could face stiff fines if they were deemed to be in breach of this prohibition. The main effect of the law was to turn newspaper editors into censors by obliging them to engage in self-censorship prior to publication. The prospect of heavy fines and the financial loss resulting from confiscation of published editions meant that they tended to err on the side of caution. Furthermore, not only was the new law unclear as to the limits of permitted discussion, but it empowered the minister to classify certain information as "reserved", a definition which in 1970 was used to suppress reporting of University matters, and of Franco's travel arrangements.
   Although it was no longer compulsory to refer books and journals to the censors prior to publication, in practice most authors and publishers continued to do so. Despite the exercise of prior self-censorship, the proportion of works of all kinds in which cuts were required before authorization went up from an average of 6.5 percent in the decade prior to 1966 to 8.8 percent in the following decade, though the annual figure went down to 1.4 percent in 1975. The highest annual figure in the decade prior to the enactment of the Press Law was 9.8 in 1965, but in the four years after the act, the average annual percentage of works subjected to cuts was 12.9, with a peak of 15.9 in 1968. These figures, however, give an overpessimistic picture of the situation if taken in isolation. They certainly testify to the continuing vigilance of the censors, but also suggest that authors and publishers were being more adventurous in testing the limits of the freedoms made available by the new law. In this connection, it is relevant to note that the annual average number of publications submitted to the censors went up by over 80 percent, from 610 in the period 1955–65, to 1,102 between 1966 and 1975. This reflects an increase in the absolute numbers of publications appearing, which suggests that the new law did have some effect in creating a more flexible and vital cultural climate. But perhaps the most telling piece of evidence is that Franco became so enraged by the increasingly critical tone of the press, especially in exposing government corruption, that he sacked Fraga Iribarne in 1969.
   See also: Francoist culture
   Further reading
   - Abellán, M.L. (1980) Censura y creación literaria en España (1939-1976), Barcelona: Ediciones Penísula (chapters 6 and 7 of Part 2 give a clear account of the content and operation of the Press Law).
   - Gubern, R. (1981) La censura: Función política y ordenamiento jurídico bajo el franquismo (19361975), Barcelona: Ediciones Penísula (the first part of chapter 6 gives a useful short account of the context and effects of the law).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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