Freedom of expression in Spain

Spanish rapper Voltonyc to spend three years in prison for insulting the king

Spain’s top court upholds ruling against the Mallorcan artist for slander and glorifying terrorism

Rapper Valtonyc in a screenshot from a video on his YouTube channel.
Rapper Valtonyc in a screenshot from a video on his YouTube channel.

The Spanish Supreme Court has upheld a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to rapper José Miguel Arenas, known by his artistic name Voltonyc, for slander against the Crown, glorifying terrorism and making threats in a series of songs. The Mallorcan artist was sentenced to prison by the High Court after composing the music and publishing the songs online where they could be freely accessed.

Rap music is known for its “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic” lyrics, argued Voltonyc

The Supreme Court ruled that the songs included expressions “in support and in praise” of the terrorist organizations First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Groups, known as GRAPO, and the Basque group ETA. The songs were also found to slander King Felipe VI and his family and contained threats against the president of the Spanish foundation Círculo Balear, Jorge Campos. The judges rejected Valtonyc’s defense that he was protected by his right to freedom of expression and artistic creation, and that rap music is known for its “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic” lyrics.

In its ruling, the court said it was “enough to read the proven facts to understand the gravity of the expressions.” It underlined that there was an “undoubted laudatory tone” in support of GRAPO and ETA, “which goes beyond expressing agreement with their political objectives, solidarity with the prisoners or the camaraderie born from a shared ideology.”

The court ruled that Valtonyc’s music “praises not just political objectives, but also the violent means used by the terrorist organizations, and calls for them to be repeated,” adding that the content cannot be protected by freedom of expression or opinion. The songs include phrases like “I want to share a message with Spaniards. ETA is a great nation,” and: “Shooting your boss in the head is justified, or you could always wait for him to be kidnapped by some group.”

Insulting the Crown

Regarding the insults against the Spanish royal family, the Supreme Court found that “they are not irrelevant, they are not a political critique of the head of state or the monarchist system, expressing the benefits of a republic.” The court ruled that Valtonyc’s songs slandered and threatened the king and members of the Royal Family with lyrics such as: “The king has a date in the people’s square, a noose around his neck that will feel like the weight of the law,” and: “Let’s make [Iñaki] Urdangarin work at Burger King and Princess Elena apologize for being illiterate and not studying in Cuba” – a reference to King Felipe VI’s brother-in-law and sister, who were recently caught up in a corruption scandal.

The Supreme Court also upheld the High Court’s ruling that the songs contained “repeated death threats” against the president of Círculo Balear, a civic association that has just become a political party named Actúa Baleares.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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