Stramed, The battleground in Catalonia’s independence push is moving from the street to the screen.
The separatist government is supercharging efforts to create what it calls a “digital republic,” which would enable it to exert some powers even if Madrid imposes direct rule. But Spain’s Socialist government, back in power after a national election, has already tried to pull the plug on this fledgling online shadow state.
Spearheading the online independence bid is Catalonia’s digital policy minister Jordi Puigneró, a British-trained computer engineer, who jokingly refers to himself as “just an IT guy.”
Last month, just before the election, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez cracked down on Puigneró’s attempt to wrest control of Catalonia’s internet policy from Madrid.
“I say to the Catalan independence movement that there will be no independence either offline or online, and that the state will be just as forceful in the digital world as it is in the real world,” Sánchez said on national radio.
Sánchez’s new emergency laws widen Spain’s reasons for shutting down websites to include an “immediate and serious threat to public order.”
Violent protests shook Barcelona for days last month after Spain’s Supreme Court jailed nine separatist Catalan leaders for up to 13 years for their part in the failed independence referendum of October 2017.
Although the new laws apply to the whole of Spain and do not specifically mention Catalonia, the decree does make reference to “recent and serious events that took place in part of Spain’s territory.”
Spain’s Guardia Civil police has already requested the closure of an anonymous civil society website called Tsunami Democràtic, which has 400,000 followers on the messaging app Telegram and was instrumental in organizing protests against the sentences of the Catalan leaders last month.