WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum (WEF) condemn the attacks against Bieito Rubido, director of El Debate, and call for an end to the intimidation tactics and smear campaign orchestrated by Spain’s main governing party. Over the past few days, the Spanish governing party has launched a concerted effort to undermine Rubido’s credibility and independence as a journalist. This campaign involves making unsubstantiated accusations and spreading misinformation about Rubido’s work following El Debate’s investigation into the business dealings of Begoña Gómez, the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

WAN-IFRA and WEF have stated that the smear campaign against Rubido is an attempt to undermine the independence and credibility of El Debate, a respected media outlet in Spain. They emphasize that the freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to report without fear of reprisal are essential pillars of a healthy democracy. The open letter expresses solidarity with Rubido and calls on the Spanish government to respect the principles of press freedom and to refrain from any actions that could be perceived as an attempt to interfere with the work of the media. The following open letter serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting press freedom and the vital role that journalists play in a democratic society.

Journalists and media entrepreneurs worldwide, including the 18,000 in 109 countries that make up the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF), have a fundamental job to do for society: to publish what they know to be true and not to publish what they know to be untrue. That is the often blurred line that separates information from manipulation, opinion from propaganda, analysis from slander, and truth from lies.

As the philosopher and mathematician Lord Bertrand Russell eloquently stated, “When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficial social effects if it were believed, but look only and solely at what are the facts.

Our focus should be on the facts and the truth they reveal. We must not be swayed by personal beliefs or the potential benefits of others believing what we say. This commitment to the truth, to what has happened rather than what we wish had happened, is the cornerstone of our craft: reporting. Our duty is to report, not to lie.

It is positive that, in Spain, there has been a social movement calling for more honesty in the constantly disseminated information. Not every blogger or website producer is a journalist. Not everything that is published on social networks is true, or worthy, or even credible. Those who place their publications at the exclusive service of a party or ideology are not informing but manipulating their potential readers or viewers. Because they are deliberately, self-interestedly distancing themselves from the facts. And that is lying.

The totalitarian temptation is common to all powers. Nothing is more accessible, frequent, or abject than hiding inquisitorial intentions behind an initially honest idea, such as ensuring that the information we receive is truthful and reliable. In the last few days, some government ministers, particularly language speakers, spokespersons for the party that supports the Spanish government, and the media sympathetic to it, have been falling into precisely what they say they are trying to avoid. They have unsheathed their accusations and are pointing the finger as liars, manipulators, “right-wing thugs”, and “fascists” at many reporters who legitimately disagree with what the government does or says and run the risk – because it is becoming a risk – of saying so. Bieito Rubido, director of the digital newspaper El Debate, is among those journalists to whom we want to convey all our support and respect. He is just one example. There are more cases.

In line with the Santiago + 30 Declaration on Press Freedom, signed by numerous journalists’ associations around the world, which calls for the protection of journalists and media from threats, attacks, and violence, we must denounce what is nothing more than the old harassment of the press by those in power disguised, at least this time, with the noble intention of discrediting those who spread hoaxes. It is unacceptable that the government and its party should try to lump together all those who disagree with its actions.

We’d like to recall what the US Supreme Court said in 1971, when many newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, published secret information that demonstrated the government’s lies and the government sought to prosecute the journalists: “Freedom of the press is to protect the governed, not the rulers.”

The old adage rings true – we must learn from past mistakes, or else we are doomed to repeat them. The choice is ours – we can embrace the wisdom of the past and use it to shape a brighter future, or we can stubbornly disregard history and risk being trapped in a cycle of repetitive mistakes. By committing to learning from the past, we can unlock the potential to create positive, lasting change and avoid the pitfalls that have plagued us before.

Fernando de Yarza, President WAN-IFRA

Martha Ramos, President WEF

Vincent Peyrègne, CEO WAN-IFRA

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