Translated to English by Traducciones Indignadas: https://traduccionesindignadas.wordpress.com
Source (spanish): http://kaosenlared.net/raul-capin-fotoperiodista-encausado-estamos-viviendo-en-un-estado-policial/
In May 2013, freelance photojournalist Raúl Capín, who specializes in reporting on social movements and regularly collaborates with Diario Independiente Digital and Mundo Obrero, was arrested in his home in Madrid. After spending a night in a cell he was released with charges, accused of assaulting a police officer and inciting protestors to likewise assault a group of undercover agents. Capín, described by the right-wing press as an extremist agent provocateur, maintains that he is suffering from persecution and keeps his commitment to working to show the public what the mass media refuse to report. Two years later, his case still open, he gave this interview to Canarias-semanal, with the aim of contributing to a joint campaign set up by a group of alternative media to defend freedom of expression.
Canarias-semanal: Raúl, can you describe your arrest in 2013 and the treatment you received?
Raúl Capín: They came to my house. There were two uniformed agents and three in civilian clothes, with their faces covered. They just told me that I was under arrest. They handcuffed me in my own doorway and took me downstairs, where there was a car and another two plainclothes policemen with their faces covered waiting outside. First they took me to the Information Brigade, the group which investigates the social movements, what they call “extreme left-wing groups”. I was there for about an hour and a half, handcuffed all the time, while two officers told me not to move or turn my head.
After an hour and a bit they took me to Moratalaz Police Station. They put me in a cell and never even let me go to the bathroom. I don’t know how exactly how long I was there; you lose your sense of time in that kind of situation.
They were very interested in knowing if I had my mobile on me, so they could get into my contacts, but I had taken the precaution of leaving it at home because I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to use it.
CS: Did they let you call your lawyer?
RC: They wanted to give me a duty solicitor, but I insisted that I wasn’t going to talk without my own lawyer present, so in the end they called him. When he got there, they put me in an room with a police officer and started asking me questions, but I insisted on my right not to reply. They kept asking all the same – what was I doing at the demo? Wasn’t it true that I had assaulted an officer? I held my ground and refused to answer and they kept me there all night. I couldn’t sleep, the light was on all the time and they moved me constantly from room to room.
CS: And in the morning they took you to the courthouse?
RC: Yes, in the morning they took me to the courthouse, where I obviously denied the accusations against me and I was released with charges. Accused of “assaulting an officer” and, according to the police, organising a group of protestors to isolate a group of the Brigada de Información [Intelligence Brigade] so that some kids could attack them.
CS: What sentence are they asking for these charges?
RC: Two years in prison for “assaulting an officer”, but I still haven’t received the prosecutor’s petition for the other charge, so I don’t know yet.
C-s: What stage are the proceedings at right now?
RC: As I say, the prosecutor’s office has issued their petition for the first of the charges, so we are waiting for the hearing.
CS: So what actually happened at the march and the demo where, according to the police, you committed these crimes?
RC: The first march, the one where I am accused of “assaulting an officer”, was one of the Mareas Ciudadanas. There were two or three men wearing hoods, who never identified themselves as police, and they went after this girl. Obviously, the photographers and camera operators went in close to film and photograph what was happening. In these situations, as you know, everybody wants to get the best shot, so the people at the back pushing and jostling. So I got a push and all I did was I leant my hand on the back of one of the hooded men who, as I say, had not identified himself as a police officer.
The second accusation was after a Surround Congress demo. What happened there is I saw a group of very young protestors, aged about 16 or 17. Beside them there was a group of men aged about 40 with their faces covered. It didn’t look right, particularly as the older guys were saying, “Those cops were beating us … Let’s get the Caja Madrid [bank]… Let’s push those bins over there” and stuff like that. I thought it was very odd and I said so to a colleague, Adolfo Luján, who was there too, and the two of us started taking pictures.
Afterwards, when there were only a few kids left, three policemen with hoods on went after two of them to arrest them. The kids started shouting and the rest of their group, who had been leaving, came back to help them and there was a bit of a struggle and one of the policemen’s buffs was pulled down. We took photographs of him and the next day we published them, under the heading, “Police incite at demos with undercover agents”. And so they are accusing us of “denigrating the police” and “organising a group to attack them”.
CS: Is that how you interpret your arrest and charges? Do you think it is due to the fact that, as an independent journalist, you report on this type of police activity?
RC: Yes, of course, because it’s obvious that a group of men, who turned out to be police, were provoking trouble at demos. We published that and they obviously didn’t like it. Just like they don’t like us to report on the police aggression and abuse that other media hide or justify.
For me it’s obvious that they want to intimidate people. They want people to be afraid. The press is supposed to be respected, so a State where hooded police can show up at a journalist’s house, arrest him and bring charges against him is sending a very clear message: “Watch out. If this is what we do to the press, worse things can happen to people who go to demos or film stuff”. It’s happening now with the PP in government, but it happened when the PSOE was in government too.
CS: You are always in the street – do you think the level of repression against independent informers, journalists who don’t work for establishment media, is still on the rise?
RC: Yes. I could give you the example of another demo, a Surround Congress demo, with very few people at it, where the police charged straight at the press. That was the day they beat the guy from La Haine, the one they are now asking for six years for. That same day a riot officer hit me on the back of the neck with his baton and said, “Publish that tomorrow, if you like.”
My case isn’t really any different from any of the others, and it’s not going to stop. Then there’s Iraitz Salegi, a Basque reporter from Topatu.info, who they recently tried before the Audiencia National [Spanish High Court with National Jurisdiction] just for covering a political act, or Teresa Toda, former editor of Egin, who was imprisoned for six years for doing her job. This all comes from way back; it’s just that before it only happened in the Basque Country, and now it’s going on everywhere.
CS: A few days before you were arrested, several right-wing papers, specifically ABC, La Razón and El Mundo, published articles accusing you of being an “extremist agent provocateur”. Do you think these media had a role in your arrest?
RC: First of all, I think that a lot of people understand that, more than journalists, these media are actually propagandists for big business, which is what they are.
With regard to what happened, yeah, these papers published front-page articles showing me, with headlines saying, “Photographers posing as protestors incite attacks on police … Information Brigade investigating undercover photographers”. I believe the articles were written to the specifications of the Government Office in Madrid, who gave the journalists the information, because it contains details that only the Police could have known.
CS: Have you had any further problems with the Police since your arrest?
RC: I have to cross the street when I see a UIP [riot squad] van coming, or they stop me and mess me around and show me up in front of people. They call my name when they see me in the street, as if to say “We know who you are”. The same thing happens whenever I am at a demo. They also have me on file as supposedly being the leader of “violent groups” here in Madrid.
CS: This all sounds like a police state.
RC: Well, yes. From the minute you can be hassled this way or they can arrest you in your own home just for doing your job as a journalist, we are living in a police state.
CS: What do you think things will be like for journalists, like yourself, who work in the street after the Gag Law and the new Criminal Code come into force, after which it will be a crime just to photograph a police officer?
RC: I don’t know how they will apply the Gag Law in the end, but it’s plain that something will happen to us. I think that they have got into a circle of repression and they are not going to stop. So, you go out into the street to do your job, because that’s what you have to do, but all the time you know that something could happen. I think the Gag Law has been created specifically to give the riot police what they want.
CS: What do you think of the joint campaigns like the one we and other media have set up to join forces against repression, to denounce it and to be ready to be able to respond jointly to what’s coming our way?
RC: I think they are a very good idea, because we absolutely have to denounce and report what is going on. Even the UN has said that the Gag Law is a throwback to the days of Franco, so these campaigns are necessary.
We have to let people know that what is going on, so that they understand that the same people who are tangled up in myriad corruption cases and who have robbed thousands of millions are trying to silence those who are denouncing what is going on. The same way they are silencing the evicted, the unemployed, the people who have lost their healthcare and the young people who can’t go to university because they can’t afford to pay the fees.
All of this needs to be said and it needs to be known that those of us who try to report it are being repressed and beaten, and it is we ourselves, who suffer this repression directly, who need to conduct the campaigns. There is no point in waiting for the mass media, like El Pais or El Mundo, or the big agencies to do it. Not because they may not be committed at a personal level, but because their work is very limited by the media they work for, because of the interests they defend.
So, basically, the campaigns need to be conducted by those of us who do a different kind of journalism, those of us who criticise and denounce the system. And that is something Power can’t tolerate, so it represses.