Spanish rapper Valtonyc (real name Miquel Arenas Beltrán) has been sentenced to three years and six months in prison, a 3,000 euro fine and a ban from holding public office for eight years on charges of “grave insults to the Crown”, “glorification of terrorism and humiliation of its victims” and “threats” in his songs, reported PEN International.
The sentencing, issued on 20 February 2018, follows the rappers unsuccessful appeal to the initial ruling from 22 February 2017.
“Freedom of artistic expression in Spain has fallen below EU and international human rights standards. Frequent prosecutions of musicians produces a climate of fear for artists. We call on the Spanish authorities to drop all charges against Valtonyc and all other musicians currently facing charges for their musical expressions,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
The Spanish National Court, a High State Court directly under the Supreme Court that notoriously deals with cases of terrorism, reviewed songs that Valtonyc posted on YouTube, MySpace and hip-hop music portal HHGroups and argued that the rapper gravely insulted and directly threatened politicians, prominent public figures and most of the Royal family members in his lyrics.
Since the 2015 legislative amendments to the Law on Public Security and Criminal Law, there has been a significant increase in the number of trials and imprisonments of artists relating to the “glorification of terrorism” and “humiliation of terrorist victims”. This includes the case of La Insurgencia, a 14-member rap group who were sentenced in December 2017 to two years and one day in prison, a fine of 4,500 euros and a ban from standing for public office for nine years each on the charge of “supporting terrorism” in their lyrics. One minor in the group was directed to a separate prosecution and the 14th member was acquitted.
Despite some of the lyrics by Spanish rappers discussing violence and challenging the Spanish government and Crown, the proliferating levels of imprisonments, persecutions and threats against rappers in Spain is in violation of the international human rights treaties and European Human Rights Conventions that Spain is a party to.
Throughout 2017, Freemuse found that 66 per cent of all violations of artistic freedom in Spain were against rappers and all cases of the imprisonment of artists in Spain were of rappers.
For additional information on this silencing environment for rappers in Spain and wider issues of artistic freedom of expression worldwide, read Freemuse’s newly published The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report.