Spain's government approved draft legislation [text, PDF, in Spanish] on Friday that would impose a fine of €30,000 (USD $40,800) for offenses such as insulting the government, burning the flag or protesting parliament without prior approval. It also sets stiff penalties for demonstrations that challenge the electoral process and unauthorized protests at places such as airports or power plants. The bill, which was introduced last month [JURIST report] by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz [official website, in Spanish], has drawn sharp criticism from opposition groups who argue [AP report] that it is an attempt by Spain's conservative government to suppress dissent. The bill is expected to pass both houses of parliament.
In February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] criticized [JURIST report] Egypt for drafting a similar anti-protest law for failure to adequately protect freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and two international rights treaties ratified by Egypt. Last year the Spanish government faced criticism [Telegraph report] after introducing legislation that aimed to reduce public demonstrations by restricting the use of social networking. The measures were criticized by many, with some people comparing the measures to those of Gen. Francisco Franco's regime.