CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM

Blind Ourense councilor’s right to record meetings backed by a court judge

Judge finds that rule against recording was not "duly justified" and that it violated the Constitution

Councilor Eduardo Carnero
Councilor Eduardo CarneroNacho Gómez / EL PAÍS

Eduardo Carnero, the only councilor for the regional party Compromiso por Galicia (CxG) in Cualedro, a rural community in Ourense province, can barely see. A degenerative disease called pigmentary retinopathy has left him 81-percent blind. In 2012, Carnero decided that the only way to do his job properly was to record the plenary sessions, listen to them at home and take notes calmly, as he has trouble writing and cannot read the meeting minutes.

But the mayor, Luciano Rivero of the center-right Popular Party (PP), prohibited the recordings on the grounds that they could "interfere with the normal development of the session and curtail the councilors' freedom of speech." Rivero enjoyed broad support from the ample PP majority in this municipality of 1,900 residents. And so the mayor was able to veto the constitutional right to record public sessions. After unsuccessfully attempting to resolve the problem amicably or through administrative channels, Carnero finally resorted to the courts. And now a judge has ruled in his favor.

According to the ruling, none of the mayor's arguments are "duly justified." The judge goes even further, questioning the attitudes of the local representatives. "It would appear that the behavior of public representatives, their opinions and manifestations, vary depending on whether there is an audience in the plenary room or whether they are being recorded, which is certainly unacceptable."

The ruling goes on to say that recording the sessions "is the only means at [Carnero's] disposal to recall the proceedings," and concludes that the mayor violated Article 20 of the Spanish Constitution on the freedom of expression. Some local residents applauded the decision. "The mayor inherited the town hall and he thinks it's his personal living room. Eduardo is doing no harm to anyone," said one person inside a bar.

Luciano Rivero got to be mayor after the death of his predecessor, Marina Cuquejo, who happened to be his mother. Cuquejo had run the village for 27 years, granting her son a civil servant position, which he still holds.

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