Rapper Valtonyc has been added to the roster of 30 music festivals and booked in 70 concert venues in Catalunya in the wake of the rapper’s recent prison sentence for insulting the country’s royal family. The announcement was made jointly by a wide range of festivals, including Barcelona’s Primavera Sound, Sonar, Cruïlla, Ciutat Flamenco and the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, together with the Concert Hall Association of Catalunya, which encompasses 70 venues, and it is is, at least for now, only symbolic.
The artist from Mallorca, whose given name is Miguel Arenas Beltran, was sentenced on Feb. 20 to three-and-a-half years in prison by the Spanish Supreme Court for insulting the country’s royal family and “inciting terrorism” in his song lyrics.
“Faced with the situation of a flagrant infringement of the right of freedom of expression and before the State’s reversal of democracy, putting a singer in prison for his lyrics, the festivals and concert venues in Catalunya want to show our solidarity with Valtonyc and as such include him on our programs,” reads a statement issued by the Concert Hall Association, known as ASSAC. The Catalan Academy of Music and the Association Representatives, Promoters and Managers of Catalunya (ARC) have also joined the protest.
Ens unim per mostrar el nostre rebuig davant una mesura que ataca directament la llibertat d'expressió i creació artística. Inclús a qui no agradin les lletres o expressions artístiques que s'estan censurant, és un dret fonamental, en un Estat democràtic, poder expressar-les. pic.twitter.com/XFVAyJKO30
— ASACC (@AsaccConcerts) February 21, 2018
“As a music festival that always programs artists with respect for their creative independence we can only be saddened on one hand, and on the other, raise our voices against a series of measures that we believe undermine freedom of expression,” the organizers of Primavera Sound wrote in a statement issued after the sentencing, which upheld a previous lower court decision. They added that while they do not “share the content or format” of Valtonyc’s verses, they uphold the idea that any artist must be able to speak freely.
The Supreme Court rejected Valtonyc’s defense, which described the nature of rap lyrics as “extreme, provocative, allegorical and symbolic.”
Sixteen of Valtonyc’s songs, including “Facism Is Cured By Dying” and “They Should Be Afraid 2,” which he posted on YouTube and the rap site HH Groups, were exhibited as evidence in court. They call out the King and other members of the royal family and members of government for repression and corruption, with references to real events and their imagined consequences, with lines like “The King has an appointment in the town square with a rope around his neck and let the weight of the law fall on him.”
Valtonyc’s songs were heard on the streets of Barcelona this past weekend, played by demonstrators who met Spain’s King Felipe upon his arrival in town for the opening of the World Mobile Congress, fusing support for freedom of expression with protests by proponents of Catalunyan independence. Barcelona Mayor Aida Colau and other top local government officials refused to attend a reception for the King as protest of his support for repression of the movement by the Spanish central government, and the current imprisonment of Catalan politicians and activists.
The rapper’s sentencing, plus the removal of a work titled “Contemporary Spanish Political Prisoners” at Madrid’s ARCO art fair, and the banning of a book on the Galician drug cartel which called out local politicians — all in one week — have added a new level of anger, outrage and concern about the actions of the Spanish government in Catalunya and beyond.
A new report by Amnesty International calls out Spain for making terrorism allegations against people who expressed opinions on social media that the human rights group determined “fell within the permissible forms of expression under international human rights law.” Twenty people were convicted of glorifying terrorism online in 2017, including one woman who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for what she said were jokes on Twitter about the 1973 assassination of Spanish prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco. Amnesty International further found that “some Spanish authorities disproportionately restrict the right to freedom of expression.”
Valtonyc’s lawyer told Spain’s TV3 television that he will appeal his sentence before the European Court of Human Rights’s Constitutional Court.
Spanish artists have joined the quickly growing campaign against censorship under the hashtag #enespanasecensura.
— vetusta morla (@vetustamorla) February 22, 2018
This article originally appeared on Billboard.