Not everything is allowed: How citizens of Madrid view opinion and freedom of expression in the news Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2011

start page

  • 55

end page

  • 70

issue

  • 1

international standard serial number (ISSN)

  • WWWW-0097

abstract

  • Freedom of the press is a well established value in Western democracies like Spain. But how free is freedom of expression, really? Is everything allowed? The aim of this paper is to describe the perceptions of citizens of Madrid regarding freedom of expression in the media. To accomplish this goal, we conducted seven focus groups among citizens of Madrid. The sample was designed according to different variables so that the entire citizenry was represented. Afterwards, we surveyed 407 citizens in order to extrapolate our results to the general population of citizens in Madrid. The results show that citizens are twice as likely as journalists to oppose publishing or broadcasting opinions in the media that seem to contradict human rights, include Nazi or racist ideas, encourage the use of violence, or support terrorist organizations. The differences are even greater for views on religious matters, sexist remarks, anti-Constitutional sentiments or comments considered to be in poor taste. In all cases, journalists are far more relaxed, tend to justify their decisions, and jealously guard their freedom of expression. Results of qualitative analysis reveal this same divergence, and illuminate interesting nuances underlying the mismatch in perceptions of both groups.