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Twelve European newspapers gagged over "Football Leaks"

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo warms up before a soccer match in Madrid, 6 November 2016
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo warms up before a soccer match in Madrid, 6 November 2016

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 7 December 2016.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a Spanish judge's injunction ordering 12 European newspapers to stop publishing the so-called “Football Leaks” revelations about alleged tax fraud by professional footballers. RSF regards the injunction as an attempt to censor on a continental scale.

Issued last week by a judge in Madrid, the injunction accuses European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) ­– a consortium that includes Mediapart in France, Der Spiegel in Germany and El Mundo in Spain – of obtaining confidential information about European football stars, thereby violating “the fundamental right to the privacy of communications.”

The gag order was issued in response to a complaint by Senn Ferrero – a law firm that provides tax advice to football personalities ­– alleging that the information published by the newspapers was obtained by means of hacking.

The injunction demands a “publication ban, whether in printed or digital versions, of confidential information of a personal, financial, fiscal and/or legal nature of clients of Senn Ferrero.”

“We express our support for the newspaper consortium that broke this story and we deplore this judicial decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the freedom to inform,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF's European Union-Balkans desk. “The right to information must be protected and any judicial initiative designed to deprive the public of access to information must be condemned.”

The initial reports published despite the ban claim that Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo may have hidden millions of euros in tax havens. The media outlets that make up the consortium have announced more revelations in the coming weeks.

The Spanish judge said he would seek the cooperation of his counterparts in other European Union countries in order to ensure that the gag order is enforced throughout the EU.

Spain is ranked 34th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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