Aznar gave his first interview since the elections yesterday. The interview was broadcast on Tele Cinco and Aznar spoke about the election defeat, Zapatero’s intention to withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq, and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Madrid. He denied any attempt to manipulate public opinion, and said that people who claimed the contrary were “vile” and “slandalous”. He reiterated that his government has nothing to hide. He repeated his conviction that the decision to participate in the war against Iraq was the right one, and that it would be a mistake to bring Spanish troops home now. Although Aznar didn’t acknowledge the fact that he and his government had made any mistakes, political commentators last night and this morning agree that he was much quieter and less agressive than in previous interviews.
It is interesting that the out-going President conceded his first interview to Tele Cinco (seen by many as one of the few objective television channels in Spain), rather than to one of the pro-PP television channels, which were accused of manipulating news and biased reporting in favour of the PP throughout this legislature and especially during the election campaign.
The fact that Aznar chose Tele Cinco may suggest that he wants to get his arguments over to viewers who often criticise his methods and reject the political reporting methods used by the other television channels over the past few years.
Since the elections, employees of Grupo Radiotelevision Espanola (the state television and radio company) and Antena 3 (private, pro-PP) have for the first time openly criticised the way they were supposedly forced to cover news items with a strong bias in favor of the Popular Party.
Zapatero has promised to pass a law to prevent government manipulation of state television and it is to be hoped that he keeps his promise. Aznar made the same promise 8 years ago before winning the 1996 election which bought him to power, but once he became President, the benefits of having a media platform from which to launch policies obviously outweighed the disadvantages from the point of view of democracy and independent information. Hopefully the new President of Spain will not make the same mistake. The sooner Spain has a more independent media, the better.
Meanwhile, this morning the judge leading the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Madrid has filed charges against four more suspects and ordered for them to be detained pending further investigation. One of the four men is Spanish.
He is a retired miner who, according to news reports, has admitted supplying the terrorists with dynamite but claims he didn’t know what they were going to use it for.