The Spanish ambassador in France lobbied Sciences Po University in Paris to cancel a conference on the Catalan self-determination referendum, ACN has learned. The event, which included a presentation by the Catalan Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva, went ahead anyway but journalists were not allowed to film or take pictures.

In fact, minutes before the conference started, the Sciences Po communications team warned media that they would not be allowed to film, take pictures or record audio of the talk, arguing that this was “university policy”. However, in previous occasions, journalists had been allowed to film freely at the university, including when Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont. gave a talk there in October 2016.

In comments to the press before the conference, the Catalan minister Raül Romeva said the attitude of the Spanish government with regard to stopping the referendum “cannot be justified.” “There is an ongoing violation of fundamental rights,” he warned, saying freedom of speech, of ideology and discussion are being threatened.

“In Europe, in the 21st century, public meetings are being banned, ballots and ballot boxes are being searched and confiscated by police, websites are being shut down and paramilitary police enter newsrooms and ask journalists for their identification,” Romeva said.

“On October 1, it is very important for people to be able to express what option they prefer, totally freely,” said the Catalan minister. Asked about the “obstacles” to his talk in Paris, Romeva said that the Catalan government is determined to explain itself abroad and will continue doing so.

“We have a clear willingness to explain ourselves. We will be everywhere we are invited to be with the aim of debating openly and transparently,” he said. “If someone has difficulties with this, he should explain the reasons why he wants to stop an open debate,” he added.

During Minister Romeva’s conference the deputy of the Spanish embassy in Paris, Alfonso Tena, stood up and spoke. He said that the Catalan referendum is illegal and that “200 Catalan lawyers have signed a manifesto against it.” The Spanish diplomat criticized Romeva for describing Spain as a “dictatorship” while portraying Catalonia as an “ideal place”.

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