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Pablo Gonzalez, a Basque journalist who includes working for Basque and Spanish left-wing media, was covering the war in Ukraine when he was interrogated by the Ukrainian authorities, the Spanish intelligence services approached his family and friends and he was subsequently arrested in Poland on 28th February and charged with spying against Poland. He has been denied access to his lawyer and no evidence has yet been presented to back up the charge but after his four-hour Ukrainian interrogation, Gonzalez reported that he had been accused of spying for Russia on the basis that he had been born in Russia1, that he reported for the mildly left-wing Basque nationalist newspaper GARA (he also reports for Publico.es) and that he had a bank card for a Basque cooperative bank. Journalist defence organisations have expressed concern at the detention.
I am not aware of having seen Gonzalez’s reporting but it may be that his material did not align with the dominant discourse as apparently the International Federation of Journalists reported that González had been accused of being pro-Russian in his coverage for a Spanish newspaper. On the other hand, several of his colleagues say that his reporting has been anti-Putin. Clearly the secret services of at least three pro-NATO countries, Ukraine, Spain and Poland have been in communication regarding Gonzalez. After his interrogation in Ukraine, he had been released but it seems awarned to leave Ukraine. He went to Poland and had been just about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of other reporters when arrested by the Polish authorities. “Legal threats and smear campaigns are a daily menace to outspoken journalists, and journalists covering the migration crisis on the Belarusian border have been detained and harassed,” the Europe representative of the Commitee to Protect Journalists, Atilla Mong told Voice Of America2.
I am no supporter of Pablo Iglesias or of his Podemos party3 but I offer my translation of his piece in Publico.es in the hope that it will a) encourage some to follow the case and perhaps lift their voices for Gonzalez’s release and b) become aware that censorship and misinformation is rampant in the media around this conflict.
On the 14th of this month, the photojournalist Juan Teixeira, a friend of Pablo González, wrote a column in Público entitled “About Pablo González and the diminishing freedom of the press.”4 There he talks about his relationship with Pablo, his work with him in the Ukraine and his arrest. I recommend, in fact, that you read his entire column, but allow me to read you two paragraphs:
It was precisely in one of these connections with Ferreras that everything began to go wrong. Pablo decided to do the direct clip of him with the military in the background, which is always more televisable. From La Sexta they had him waiting for more than 45 minutes under snow and with the soldiers increasingly tense wondering what that bald man was doing standing in front of a mobile on a tripod.
Until the military got tired and invited us to leave, but not before erasing all the material and taking a photo of Pablo’s passport. That same night, he received a call from the SBU (Ukrainian intelligence services), telling him that he should report to their headquarters as soon as possible. Despite the fact that there was work to be done, we returned to Kyiv. There Pablo was interrogated for 4 long hours, and accused of being a Russian agent with such convincing evidence as writing for Gara and having a Caja Laboral Kutxa bank card, according to them both financed by Russia. All so crazy that Pablo didn’t take it too seriously. He thought that they were simply “tightening the nuts” so that he would be more cautious with his words.
Until he found out that at that very moment, CNI5 agents had appeared at his family home, at his mother’s and at that of a childhood friend to question them and inform them that Pablo was a Russian agent.
I’m sorry that Ferreras appears here, the poor man has no fault in this, beyond the time the duplex took6, but it seemed important to me that the arguments of the Ukrainian secret services be known. I find it amazing that being the son of a Russian, writing for Gara and having an account in the Kutxa7 is something that makes you a suspect of being a secret agent of Putin. By this rule of thumb, there would be more evidence that would determine that Minister Albares8 is, on the one hand, an agent of the Vatican (he studied at Deusto, the Jesuits rule there and Pope Francis is a Jesuit, put it all together) and, on the other, he is also Moroccan agent (he lived for a long time in France and is married to a French judge who advises Emmanuel Macron, put it together)… Albares may sympathize with the Jesuits and put forward a pro-Moroccan9 line but it would be delusional to present him as an agent. Well, González is an even more delusional case.
The problem is that the logic of war contaminates everything and it is destroying the quality of the already highly-reviled conventional journalism. At the same time that we hear multi-award-winning journalists like Antonio Papell calling for Russia to be attacked with nuclear bombs or the famous and “progressive” Elisa Beni losing her temper with a professor of international law who committed the terrible crime of saying on the radio that, in geopolitics, values do not operate, we see that a correspondent who provided training and knowledge of the field, is accused of being a secret agent. Crazy.
I can only tell you that here at La Base we are going to continue reporting and analyzing rigorously, dismantling propaganda wherever it comes from and defending the freedom to inform without simplifying the complex and always paying attention to the context. At La Base kapuscinski style: rigor and commitment.
1Gonzalez’s grandparents had sought asylum in the USSR from fascist dictator General Franco and Gonzalez had been born there. His parents split up and his mother took him to the Spanish state when he was seven (as a result of which he is fluent in several languages. He specialises in reporting on Eastern Europe but has been living in the Basque province of Bizkaia town of Nabarniz with his wife, Oihana Goiriena of sixteen years.
3Pablo Iglesias had been leader of the Podemos party and a minister in the Spanish coalition government but resigned and works as a journalist for La Base, a podcast of the Spanish left-wing on-line newspaper Publico.
4I have yet to read that article.
5Spanish Intelligence Service.
6I am guessing that Ferreras was the contact for Sexta, the Spanish free-to-air TV channel and that the “duplex” is a reference to the electronic connection when they were trying to broadcast.
7A Basque cooperative bank.
8 Albares is the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the current Spanish Government.
9Albares caused outrage recently by proposing that Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, accept becoming a region of the Kingdom of Morrocco, which has been illegally and violently occupying it for decades.