The other battle for independence


Catalonia voted for its independence on Oct. 1. The called “referendum” was held illegally. Independence politicians sought refuge under the made up “right to decide” to accomplish the voting.

After ignoring the orders of the government to not hold the query because it was against the Constitution and disobeying the judgment of the Court, the first Sunday of October everything was ready in Catalonia for the referendum.

The government replied sending hundreds of police officers and Civil Guards. Their only goal was to close peacefully every school where people could vote. Because the local police (Mossos d’Esquadra), under the orders of Catalonia’s government, didn’t obey to Spanish government.

When the polling day was about to start, the Catalonia’s government announced that the requisites changed: Universal suffrage and people could vote with a ballot paper printed at home. The computer system for vote counting failed, because the Spanish government locked the Web site. So, people could vote more than once, because all the control measures were write down the ID number on a sheet. Likewise, people from other parts of Spain with a Spanish ID could vote.

While this fraud was happening, the police were trying to close every polling place. The order was to do it peacefully, but, in some places, independence citizens opposed and the provocations started. The eviction that had to be peaceful became a battle with violence of both sides.

The Catalonia’s government found in this violence an opportunity to give visibility to its referendum and deflect attention from the referendum’s problems. So, they reached their goal and international news media focused on the violence.

National and international news media published photos of individuals wounded by the police, finding them on social media platforms such as Twitter. But soon, other Twitter accounts, started to determine that some photos were fake or didn’t occur on that date.

So, we could see some news media didn’t fact-check the information and the consequences were horrible for the Spanish conflict. For the world, the police was demonized, the Spanish government appeared guilty, the Catalan government was the victim, and people around the world criticized Spaniards.

Days later, other news media revealed how some photos were edited, some of the images of  injured people belonged to 2012 protest march when Mossos d’Esquadra beat demonstrators, and to other conflicts in other places around the world. Other photos were real, but the story behind them was false. Thus, the international opinion started to change again in favor of Spanish government.

In the same conflict, we could see two different practices, one right and one wrong, and how it affects public opinion, even at international level. In journalism, it’s not just about ethics, it’s about having a responsibility with the world and the society.

Some of the corrections that news media have published belong to the Twitter account @malditobulo and here are some examples:

This two wounded are attributed to the police charges during the first day of October.

But this photo is from 2012, in a manifestation of miners.

This other belongs to a manifestation in 2012 in Barcelona, when Mossos d’Esquadra charged against the demonstrators.

In the video, an independence citizen tells how Police has broken her fingers one by one.

Days later, she recognized that she had made up the story. This is one of the stories that media have covered the most.