Basque Terrorism and Poor Journalism

 Yesterday El País, the Madrid daily that during the 80s and 90s was one of the world's truly great newspapers, published an interview with Martín Garitano, the newly elected leader ("diputado general") of the legislative body of the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Country.  Garitano represents a newly formed nationalist coalition ("Bildu") that favors complete independence for the Basque Country. (Bildu did not win a majority of votes, but the opposition parties were unable to reach an agreement, and so Garitano ended up as the "diputado general"). Javier Rivas, the interviewer, says to Garitano that his coalition has spoken more clearly about the needs of ETA prisoners than they have about the needs of victims of ETA terrorism. Garitano denies this and then goes on to affirm that in the Basque Country there are currently over 700 political prisoners. This is false and the journalist didn't call him on it. Maybe it's because everyone knows it's a lie, but I don't think you can let these things go. Sometimes people keep repeating lies and eventually people believe them. Good journalists should help prevent that.

Let's be clear: jailed ETA terrorists are not political prisoners; they are not prisoners of conscience. Many of them are in jail for murder or attempted murder. Others are imprisoned for belonging to an organized armed group that in a 40+ year campaign has killed over 800 people, extorted thousands and forced many to leave their homes with threats of violence.

There is a lot of hope in the Basque Country these days and the absence of violence is to be celebrated. But unless people get honest about the nature of ETA there is little hope for true reconciliation.

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