The Spanish Government has controversially fined a Roman Catholic media group for airing a commercial in defence of traditional family values.
Spain’s Ministry of Industry fined Intereconomía 100,000 Euros (around £83,000) for airing the advert as part of a broader campaign to protect family values in the nation.
However, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has warned that such a punishment will have a “chilling” effect on democracy, and expressed concern for the future of free speech in the nation.
The advert, which was aired 273 times, showed footage of homosexuals marching in Gay Pride Day parades, and posed a series of questions for viewers to consider.
These included: “Is this the type of society you want?” and “Are these the examples you want for your children?”.
The socialist Spanish Government claimed that the advert breached the nation’s broadcasting laws which ban discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, nationality, religion and opinion.
However, the ECLJ dismissed this accusation, and warned that the punishment was a breach of Intereconomía’s right to free speech.
A press release by the group said: “The ECLJ contends that the decision of the Spanish Government goes directly against international standards protecting freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”
It added: “Freedom of expression applies not only to information and ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or indifferent, but also to expression that may offend, shock, or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”
Earlier this year Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine was arrested in the UK for expressing his belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.
Mr Mcalpine shared his belief during a private conversation with two Police Community Support Officers, and his arrest prompted criticism of the police action.
However, after reviewing the evidence against Mr Mcalpine the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop the case.
Earlier this year the previous Labour Government made a manifesto commitment to abolish a free speech safeguard introduced by Lord Waddington to a sexual orientation ‘hate’ crime law.
The safeguard made clear that criticising homosexual conduct, or encouraging someone to refrain from such conduct, was not in itself a crime.
The free speech protection is backed by comedy actor, Rowan Atkinson, and homosexuals Peter Tatchell, Matthew Parris and Christopher Biggins.