Wednesday, July 6

The Pulitzer Prize winner Javier Bauluz, fined for the gag law while photographing the arrival of migrants in the Canary Islands

On November 29, 2020, the day the migrant camp in the port of Arguineguín was dismantled, photojournalist Javier Bauluz covered the disembarkation of several people rescued at sea. He arrived before the National Police, who used to impose a police cordon that made it difficult for reporters, so he was able to get closer to the rescue ship than usual. When the agents reached the dock, one of them grabbed his arm, while Bauluz tried to continue with his work. More than a year later, the award-winning photographer has received notification of two fines worth 960 euros.

The episode between the agent and the photojournalist was recorded in a video, then released by Bauluz. In the images you can see how the professional appears talking to one of the agents, when another member of the Police breaks into the conversation, who grabs his arm to try to get him away from the Maritime Rescue ship, already docked in port. Then there is a clash between the two.

The agent then imposed two fines on the photojournalist. One of them for “lack of respect for the agent”, a minor infraction included in the Citizen Security Law that carries fines of between 100 and 600 euros. The second for “refusing to be identified”, although Bauluz denies having refused to hand over his documentation. This weekend, the Pulitzer Prize winner was notified of the enforcement order issued by the Tax Agency, which requires the payment of a total of 960 euros (700 euros plus the surcharge of 140 euros for “lack of respect” and €100 plus the €20 surcharge for “refusing to be identified”).

The photographer, who has recently published a book with his work covering months of the reception crisis in the Canary Islands, has questioned the use of the Citizen Security Law to hinder the work of reporters. “With this Law you lose the right to have a fair trial, a lawyer, some witnesses, some evidence. You face fines because a police officer puts what he wants and decides on my life without me being able to defend myself, “he said in statements to “He is absolutely helpless. There is no justice.”

The independent photojournalist has recalled the many obstacles that reporters faced to do their work at the Arguineguín dock, when hundreds of people were disembarked and housed in an improvised camp in unsanitary conditions. “It seemed like we were shooting missiles instead of photos. We seemed to be the danger, when our social mission is to tell how the migrants arrive, what the Red Cross does, what the Police does,” questions Bauluz. “They would put us up to 200 meters away. It was impossible to work. You could only show packages, groups, a mass of those that cause xenophobia.

After the notification of the fines, the photographer has started a campaign on social networks against the Citizen Security Law. Amnesty International has shown its concern about the fine received by the journalist and has supported the Pulitzer Prize initiative. “The Gag Law is a serious threat to Freedom of Expression and freedom of information. The work of journalists like Javier Bauluz is essential to document violations of rights”, the NGO has indicated through Twitter.

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