The terror campaign by the ETA in the Basque Country died down, with just one attack at the beginning of the year, in which nobody was hurt. Journalists said the authorities hindered their coverage of the ban on the Basque independence party Batasuna and of the damage caused by an oil spill on the beaches of Galicia.

New information on journalist killed before 2002

José Ignacio Guridi Lasa ("Xabi"), a presumed member of the Basque terrorist organisation ETA and accused murderer of José Luis López de Lacalle, a columnist and senior editor of the Basque edition of the national daily El Mundo, retracted his confession of guilt when his trial began on 2 December 2002.

He had been arrested in May 2001 with the gun used in the killing on 7 May 2000, when the journalist was shot dead in the street in the northern Basque town of Andoain, where he lived. Nobody witnessed the murder and his body was found by a neighbour who heard shots. The ETA claimed responsibility for the murder on 11 June 2000, accusing López of favouring "the oppression of the Basque Country and continuation of the war." López was a member of the Foro de Ermua, which opposes political violence, and had received death threats.

A journalist arrested

Maria Moukrim, a reporter with the Moroccan weekly Al Ayyam, was arrested on 19July 2002 in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in Morocco, while doing a story about the consequences for ordinary Moroccans of a Spanish-Moroccan territorial dispute. She was questioned about her reporting on Palestinian refugees, a cassette of interviews was confiscated and she was deported to the nearby Moroccan town of Tetuan on grounds she had no visa to enter Spain.

A journalist physically attacked

A cameraman, who chose to remain anonymous, was hit and injured by a police baton and hospitalised during a police operation on 27 August 2002 to shut down the Bilbao headquarters of the Basque independence party Batasuna, considered to be the political arm of the ETA. Police tried to prevent broadcast media taking pictures of clashes between police and party supporters.

Three journalists threatened

Regional Basque police (Ertzainza) defused three parcel bombs on 17 January 2002 sent, probably by the ETA, to the homes of senior media figures in the Basque Country. The recipients were Enrique Ibarra, vice-president of the Correo press group, Santiago Silván, head of Radio Nacional de España (RNE) in the Basque country, and Marisa Guerrero, head of the Basque Country TV station Antena 3.

Police defused a parcel bomb sent on 12 December to the offices of the daily El País in Barcelona, apparently from Milan (Italy) by an "anti-capitalist" group. It contained a book and a letter signed by an anarchist group called "The Five Cs," suspected of having links with Italian anarchist groups campaigning for the release of prisoners detained under special conditions in Spain.

Pressure and obstruction

The journalists' union in the northwestern region of Galicia charged on 6 December 2002 that regional and national officials were obstructing journalists trying to cover the oil spill from the tanker Prestige and the damage it was causing along the coast. It also criticised the authorities' refusal to give figures and their banning on 4 December of journalists going to the southern Galician port of Ribeira, where the oil was reaching the shore.


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