To a great extent, anti-austerity party Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias owe their success to their understanding of how the media work: since emerging as a major force in the European elections of 2014, Podemos and Iglesias have rarely been out of the headlines.
On Thursday, Iglesias, a lecturer in political science and self-styled media expert, used the presentation of a new book by a colleague at Madrid’s Complutense University, En defense del populismo (In defense of populism), by philosophy lecturer Carlos Fernández Liria, to launch an attack on Spain’s media.
“I’m going to use the journalists who follow us as a way to explain the link between Podemos and psychoanalysis,” said Iglesias. “I think a certain psychoanalytic connection exists between Podemos and journalists that can help explain a number of things.
“But even though many of the journalists who follow us are obliged for professional reasons to speak badly about us, as those are the rules of the game, there is still a bit of love, which is nice; there is something sexy about Podemos, which we noticed during the last campaign when we were all together on a tour bus; something that you find attractive and which you like.”
After being criticized by a reporter in the room for continually attacking a journalist from El Mundo, Iglesias said that in an academic context anyone can be held up as an example, and that a university setting is not the same as a press conference. This prompted applause from attendees, although journalists walked out of the room in protest.
Iglesias later apologized on Twitter, saying he had not intended to “offend” anybody.
The Madrid Press Association (APM) issued a statement condemning Iglesias’s comments. “As an elected politician, Mr Iglesias cannot attack in this totalitarian way the professionals exercising their right to freely gather information,” reads the statement. “The APM believes Iglesias’s attacks are an intolerable breach of the Constitutional rights to information and freedom of expression, fundamental pillars of democracy.”
Spain’s Association of Parliamentary Journalists (APP) also criticized Iglesias’s comments. “Journalists, like any other group, make mistakes and are not beyond criticism… and anybody who is affected by a news item has the right to demand a correction and bring the matter before the courts,” it said on Thursday.
“But journalists, like any other professional collective, also demand respect. Mockery, sarcasm and ridicule toward reporters are intolerable in an open, free, democratic society,” it said, pointing out that Iglesias has mocked journalists at press conferences before, even referring to the way they dress, as was the case recently with Ana Romero of new online daily El Español.
English version by Nick Lyne