The reform aims to curb the “spreading of images that infringe the honour of a person” and says Spain’s 1982 law covering this area is outdated due to the internet.
Campaigners for free speech see the proposal as an attack against the sometimes irreverent humour and political expression in “memes” – images altered digitally – many of which have poked fun at Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party (PP) leader and conservative Prime Minister.
Recently, a Madrid regional MP was caught making a meme on his laptop during a debate. Socialist Juan Jose Moreno was photographed converting Cristina Cifuentes, the PP regional premier, into Dirty Harry. He later apologised.
A statement by Spain’s Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information said the internet did not require special laws, as “the same rights and duties should exist online as offline”.
Sources said the proposal was just an idea at this stage and denied wishing to clamp down on memes that were not “insulting, involve death threats or accuse a person of committing a crime”.
The proposal comes a year after the introduction of the citizens’ safety law, popularly known as the “gag law”, which limits people’s right to demonstrate and under which individuals have been fined for criticising Spanish authorities on social networks. So far the only impact of the latest reform plan is a fresh wave of memes aimed at Rajoy and the PP.