Rising religious censorship

A little over a week ago two Dutch companies, fearing a boycott of their products took out advertisements in Jordanian newspapers distancing themselves from the film Fitna.

Now Heineken has withdrawn (via) a television ad from the Spanish television station La Sexta after the station broadcast a satirical series which made fun of the Roman Catholic Church.

Heineken withdrew the ad after the Christian group Hazte Or called for a boycott of all companies which do business with La Sexta.

A Spanish sense of humour failure

Two Basque newspapers are on trial (via) for poking fun at King Juan Carlos I after an incident during an official visit to Russia in 2006. The Spanish King, an avid hunter, reportedly killed a circus bear named Mitrofan that had been plied with vodka to make it an easy target.

“He was cooked!” read the headline in the satirical supplement of a Basque newspaper,Deia. A photo-montage on the cover showed a drooling King wearing a Russian hat, brandishing a rifle over a dead bear and a barrel of booze. Deia and Gara, another Basque newspaper, are also on trial for publishing an article entitled “The Tribulations of Yogi Bear”.

A Spanish judge shelved the case back in April on the basis that the the cartoonists had the right to free speech. Last week, however, Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska was overruled by the Spanish National Court, which insisted that the cartoon and article constituted an “attack on the monarch’s self-esteem”.

“The King of Spain is perhaps the most overprotected person in Europe,” said José Antonio RodrÍguez, one of the two people who created Deia’s offending cartoon. “If his self-esteem has been damaged, well, perhaps he needs to see a psychologist.”

Insulting royalty or “damaging the prestige of the Crown” is a crime in Spain, punishable by up to two years in prison.

In a separate case, the two cartoonists who were prosecuted over a cartoon that appeared in El Jueves are appealing against a €3,000 fine.

And in a third, upcoming case, actor and comedian Pepe Rubianes is charged with “insulting Spain”. Mr Rubianes told Catalan television in 2006 that he was sick and tired of hearing about the “unity of Spain” – a concern cited by conservative Spaniards to oppose a law then under discussion to grant Catalonia greater regional autonomy.

“We have noticed a worrying trend in Spain, because these laws [against insulting the Crown] have been put into practice,” Giulia Tamayo, of Amnesty International, said. “We are concerned that it is setting a precedent.”

A right royal fuss

A Spanish cartoonist is facing a possible jail sentence for publishing a cartoon (via).

Spain’s National Court ordered police to seize all 400,000 copies of the weekly satirical magazine El Jueves from newspaper kiosks, as well as the “printing plates”. Judge Juan del Olmo also ordered the magazine to identify the cartoonist responsible for its latest cover, which was met with disbelief in a nation where even the smallest criticism of the Royal Family is deemed off-limits.

It depicted the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe of Asturias, having sex with his wife, Princess Letizia, and saying: “Do you realise that if you get pregnant . . . It will be the closest thing to work I’ve done in my life?”

The drawing referred to a recent decision by the Government to award mothers €2,500 (£1,680) for each child they bear. Insulting royalty or “damaging the prestige of the Crown” is a crime in Spain, punishable by up to two years in prison.

According to the public prosecutor, the cartoon is “clearly denigrating and objectively libellous”. The court is also hoping to stop websites or other media from reproducing the cartoon.

Basque punks on trial over political lyrics

Basque hardcore punks, Soziedad Alkoholika are facing an 18 month prison sentence for allegedly praising terrorism in some of their songs.

The Spanish National Court tried the six members of the band on November 2nd for praising ETA - the Basque paramilitary organisation, listed as a terrorist group by both the EU and the US - in the lyrics of their songs Explota Zerdo (Exploit Pig), Síndrome del Norte (Syndrome of the north), Ya Güelen (They smell) and Palomas y Buitres (Doves and vultures).

The band have denied the charges and made assurances that they neither support nor have anything to do with ETA.

Explosive Theatre

The Guardian reports that an independent theatre festival in Toledo lost its government subsidies this week for refusing to cancel a show that satirises the Pope and advocates atheism.

It is the latest front in a battle that has raged since February around comedian Leo Bassis act, Revelation, which has angered the Catholic church in Spain, sparked violent protests by the extreme right in Madrid and fuelled a nationwide debate on artistic freedom.

The show, which also pokes fun at Christian evangelists in America and the Old Testament, was performed at a makeshift venue on Saturday. The festival producer is looking for donations to help cover the €7,000 (£4,857) in lost subsidies.

The previous Sunday the archbishop of Toledo, Antonio Cañizares, called the show blasphemous, anti-Christian and an insult to the church.

Days later, the local and regional governments of Toledo threatened to withdraw festival subsidies if the show was not cancelled. It could offend Catholic sensibilities, a spokesman said.

At the end of the show the New York born comedian, the grandson of British variety star Jimmy Wheeler, directs the audience to his website, where there is a form on which they can renounce their faith. He considers the work reverse evangelism.

The Spanish extreme right have also become involved (coincidentally), calling on the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to apologise for the offence to Catholic principles.

In March police defused a bomb near Mr Bassis dressing room at the Alfil Theatre in Madrid.

In June Mr Bassi takes his show to a venue near the Vatican in Rome. Im looking forward to it, he said.