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Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología (Spain) (2). Take Care.

Humor and Political Communication 23/1/2014 Send to a friend
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 This is the second part of my study about this Commision of the Spanish Federation of Press Associations (FAPE). You can find the first one in

Power games in Eric Berne and Claude Steiner

Eric Berne wrote a book called Games People Play which was an international bestseller. His principle disciple, Claude Steiner, wrote The Other Side of Power dedicated precisely to this category of games.

In Chapter 5 of his book, Berne offers various criteria for classifying games, which are of great utility. Among them are three variables:

1. Flexibility. Some games admit more changes than others.

2. Tenacity. Some people give up their games more easily, while others are more aggressive.

3. Intensity. Some people play in a relaxed way, while others are more tense and aggressive. This variable allows us to classify games as either easy or hard.

These three variables converge to make games gentle or violent:

a. A First-Degree Game is one which is socially acceptable within the agent’s circle.

b. A Second-Degree Game is one from which no permanent irremediable damage arises but which the players would rather conceal from the public.

c. A Third-Degree Game is one which is played for keeps and which ends in the surgery, the courtroom or the morgue.

Distinguishing features of the Complaints Commission

Carlos Hernández-Sanjuán’s response (which I’ve attached) indicates that the Commission’s members:
  • behave in a generally inflexible fashion, given that they accept the falsifications (as defined by the Maria Moliner Dictionary) put forward by the arbiter María Dolores Masana. They ordered a horse from Ms. Masana; she delivered a camel. And as it turns out, they’re quite happy with the camel. Anyone with any sense might think that the Commission’s members can’t go out on a moral strike in a case such as this one.
  • They are certainly tenacious, as they persist in their error instead of amending it, as proved by Hernández-Sanjuán’s letter.
  • Clearly, this letter puts a large dent in the Commission’s credibility. What does he mean “it’s not appropriate”? How can this man sign a letter like this one in 2013? What age does he think we’re living in?
On the contrary, it’s entirely appropriate to insist on certain important points, which I’ll detail here.

The Commission’s decision-making manner and the power games they play.

The manner in which this Commission acts is the same as that employed by the Soviet Union, and not just during Stalin’s reign, but right up until Gorbachov; the difference is that the Soviets played second and third degree games.

As proof of my allegations, I present the first page of Beria’s letter to Stalin on March 5, 1940 proposing the elimination of all Polish prisoners. Note that Stalin, Voroshílov, Molotóv and Mikoyán all signed the letter, and in the margin: Kalinín, agrees, Kaganovich, agrees. (From Operaciones especiales by Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov, Barcelona, Plaza y Janés, p. 589).

If we consult the Wikipedia biography of Anastás Mikoyán, we read the following:

Some historians are convinced that by 1964 Mikoyan believed that Khrushchev had turned into a liability for the Party, and that he was involved in the October 1964 coup that brought Brezhnev to power. However, the biographer William Taubman disputes this, as Mikoyan was the only member of the Presidium (the name for the Politburo at this time) to defend Khrushchev.

Mikoyan, however, did vote to force Khrushchev´s retirement (so as to make the vote unanimous, in traditional Soviet style). Alone among Khrushchev´s colleagues, Mikoyan wished the former leader well in his retirement, though he never spoke to him again. It’s possible to speculate that he did this because it would have been a political error to maintain Khrushchev in power or because by then he could no longer tolerate Khrushchev. His decision to send flowers to Khrushchev´s funeral in 1971 was perhaps due to guilt or to a certain affection for Khrushchev, or perhaps both. (Consulted on 11-13-2013).

What games is the Complaints Commission playing? Those of the second-degree, since their outcomes affect people lacking the defense of prestige that journalists from Europe and many other countries possess. These members dictate moral condemnations without the possibility of appeal. There may even be people who present complaints in order to manipulate the Commission, because what they’re after is to obtain a favorable judgment that they can take to court, with the assurance that they have a precedent in their favor, and without having had to pay for one or more lawyers.

The huge gaps in the knowledge of Complaint Commission members

Mr. Hernández-Sanjuán also claims that the Commission’s resolutions don’t allow for appeals. This shows just how happy he must be that Spain is different regarding an issue that is as detrimental to the Commission’s prestige as this one is. But many people, given the scandal caused by the Commission’s shoddy resolution, are ashamed of the Commission’s outmoded procedures and by the fact that they are well below European standards.

I responded by showing how professors from diverse Spanish universities undertook the task of examining the proposals of the Commissions on Ethics and Free Speech. They analyzed the complaints received by the following ethics Commissions of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AIPCE):
  • Press Complaint Commission (UK)
  • Österreichische Presserat (Austria)
  • Consiglio nazionale dell´Ordine dei giornalisti (Italy)
  • Общественной коллегии по жалобам на прессу (Russia)
  • Schweizer Presserat (Switzerland)
  • Comisión de Quejas y Deontología (FAPE) (just the beginning of a thorough study)
To summarize, they analyzed complaints from the period 1996 – 2013 (the actual period differs for each organization, depending on the starting date of the study and access to the archives). The total number of complaints studied was upwards of 3000.

The main objective was to see if any of these ethical organizations had ever made pronouncements based on the material written by a university professor about the work of another professor.

Conclusion: there is no precedent of this kind. No commission or committee among those examined has ever accepted a complaint related to academic conflicts.

The Press Complaint Commission (UK) resolves almost every case related to public information from blogs and applies the right to appeal (also valid for older news still available online). In the case of Richard A. E. North (Sunday Times), the PCC acknowledges:

In the realm of blogging (especially in cases touching upon controversial topics such as climate change), there is likely to be strong and fervent disagreement, with writers making use of emotive terms and strident rhetoric. This is a necessary consequence of free speech.

So why do the members of this Commission insist on supporting someone as indefensible as the above named Arbiter? wants to raise standards to a European level and has launched a Petition on to alter the Complaints Commission

Following the Complaints Commission’s sentence, the directors of the university digital newspaper asked me to collaborate with them. I thought it over, and as we have more time in the summer, I agreed to write a column called Humor and Political Communication. I began in July and have continued until now. launched a Petition aimed at the Complaints Commission through, with the following text:

For the Rights of Journalists

Did you know that the Arbitration, Complaints and Ethics Commission of the Federation of Spanish Journalists Associations compares quite poorly with organizations of a similar nature in other European countries?

It recognizes no right to appeal whatsoever. That is, whoever loses a case has no possibility to refute the arguments of the arbiter. Furthermore, if you examine and compare various of the Commission’s resolutions, you’ll discover that there are enormous differences in quality among them. This means that any Spanish journalist who receives a complaint is at the mercy of the quality of the proposal of whoever happens to be the arbiter of their case.

Here are some examples of how equivalent organizations in other European countries deal with this issue:

1. Press Complaint Commission (UK)
They have what is known as an Independent Reviewer: if at the end of the process the journalist has doubts about the way the case was handled by the Commission and its members, he has one month from the date of the sentence to write to the Independent Reviewer, who will study the appeal and make recommendations to the Commission about any inconsistencies.

2. Deutscher Presserat (Germany)
An option to reopen the case (Wiederaufnahme) exists if there is new evidence which might affect the resolution.

3. Österreichische Presserat (Austria)
An option to reopen the case (Wiederaufnahme) exists if there is new evidence which might affect the resolution.

4. Schweizer Presserat (Switzerland)
During a period of ten days from the resolution date, a request can be made for an ethical opinion of the Plenary Council by request of at least two members of the Press Council.

5. Общественной коллегии по жалобам на прессу (Russia).
In the case of Russia, the sentence handed down by the ad hoc commission can be revised by the Council (Коллегия). hereby asks the Arbitration, Complaints and Ethics Commission:

a) To recognize the right to Appeal which Spanish journalists have the a right to just like other European journalists, because the payment of their dues gives them this right;
b) To allow journalists to challenge members of the Commission in the same way allowed in any other trial;
c) That, following the international trend, and not only in the area of Law, journalists be allowed to know the name of the arbiter and how each member of the Commission voted as well as the reasoning behind their decision.

[your name]

Before launching the public petition (which is available for signing indefinitely at, a survey realized by found that 90% of voters were in favor of media professionals having these rights, just as they already do in nearby countries such as the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Russia.

The petition was signed by 2,500 people in record time.

How will the Complaints Commission respond? Do you know? I certainly don’t. Judging by the intransigence displayed in Hernández-Sanjuán’s letter, and later by the steps I see them taking –they tell me that they are once again frivolously employing the notion of “expert-” the Commission is moving rapidly toward a future in which they will be held in disrepute. A lot of people, however, are unwilling to allow things to continue as they are.

My advice to people brought before the Commission is to ignore it until it has been brought in line with European standards and those of other countries that guarantee real freedom of information.

In time and in a future column I’ll deal with María Dolores Masana Argüelles. She describes herself as a “journalist and writer.” We’ll examine what she has written.

I’ll finish this text with the opinion that a member of the Commission, Don Fernando González Urbaneja, pronounced regarding the Committee of “experts” who wrote the Report on Television, commissioned by then director of RTVE, Carmen Caffarell.

On July 20th, 2005, the then president of the Madrid Press Association and FAPE gave a speech titled Television, Politics and Economy: Public Television Today, at 11:30 AM in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

When the discussion period arrived, he was asked, “What’s your opinion of the Report by the Committee of Experts?”

“Total shit,” was his answer (the conference was videotaped).

So let’s wait and see what he has to say about certain resolutions of the Complaints Commission. Until the Commission submits to a minimum of self-criticism we can expect very little.

Other issues Blogs
Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología (Spain) (3) You can´t be too careful
Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología (Spain) (1). Watch out

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