The role of journalism in the arena of power

Bieito Rubido, Mariano Rajoy and Nicolás Redondo

On 20 October 2021, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the live dialogue through "El papel del periodismo en el escenario del poder" in which Bieito Rubido, Mariano Rajoy and Nicolás Redondo participated on the occasion of the publication of Bieito Rubido's book "Contar la verdad" published by Edicones B.

Bieito Rubidois director of 'El Debate'. He has been director of 'La Voz de Galicia' (2000-2006), director of Antena 3 de Radio and Antena 3 de Televisión in Galicia (1995-2000), editorial director of Vocento's regional newspapers (2009-2010) and director of 'ABC' for 10 years (2010-2020). Bieito is also a contributor to Herrera en COPE and El Cascabel de Trece. A frequent commentator on radio and television, he has participated, among other programmes, in 'Los Desayunos de TVE'.

Mariano Rajoy Brey holds a degree in law and is a property registrar, a profession he currently practises, after an extensive political career. He was elected deputy in the first Galician regional elections in 1981, although after winning a seat as a councillor in Pontevedra, he soon became president of the provincial council of that province. He was subsequently elected national deputy for the same constituency and a few months later was appointed vice-president of the Xunta de Galicia. In the 1989 elections he was again elected to Congress and joined the national leadership of the Partido Popular as deputy secretary general. After the arrival of the PP to the Government in 1996, he assumed different ministerial portfolios, Public Administration, Education and Culture, Interior and Presidency, as well as the post of first vice-president and minister spokesman of the Government. In 2003 he was elected Secretary General and candidate for the Presidency of the Government and, the following year, President of the Partido Popular. After the 2004 and 2008 elections - in which the PP obtained the best result ever obtained by the opposition party - in November 2011 he achieved an absolute majority and became President of the Government. In 2015 he won the elections again and, after a re-run in 2016, he was again invested as president of the government, a position he held until June 2018. A few days later, he resigned from the presidency of the Partido Popular and from his seat as a member of parliament, which he had held since the 3rd Legislature, to return to his position as a civil servant, which he holds today. He is married and has two children.

Nicolás Redondo Terreros (Portugalete, Biscay, 1958), son of the historic Spanish trade unionist and politician Nicolás Redondo Urbieta, was elected Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Euskadi-Esukadiko Ezkerra (PSE-EE) in 1997. In 2001 he resigned from all his posts in the party due to open disagreements with the political line of the PSE-PSOE. Since 2001 he has been president of the Fundación para la Libertad.


On 20 October 2021, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the dialogue "The role of journalism on the stage of power", with the participation of Bieito Rubido, director of El Debate; Mariano Rajoy, former Prime Minister, and Nicolás Redondo, president of the Fundación para la Libertad, on the occasion of the publication of Bieito Rubido's work "Contar la verdad" (Telling the truth), published by Ediciones B.

Mariano Rajoy: The job of journalism is to choose what is considered to be the most important and what is of most interest to the reader. Journalism plays an enormously important social function. Journalists tell us the news, they tell us what is happening at any given moment. Journalists give opinions and create opinion, they influence what people think, how they look at the events of the day. Journalists can do a lot of good and a lot of harm. Some do one thing, some do another, and some mix them up.

Rubido says that what happens in this profession is that people are not always aware of the damage that can be done. We play with content and information that can affect people's good names, honour or lives. Journalists do not reach the level of judges, prosecutors and police officers, but they can take away the wellbeing of a person or their family in a society that is so sensitive to image and to what others think or say about us. Media impact depends on many actors, but among the most active are journalists.

He goes on to say that the media believe everything that bears the official stamp of the corresponding judicial body and a lacerating perversion takes place. The accused is obliged to prove his innocence, while the judicial authorities, experts and police decline their duty to prove that what they say and maintain is true in order to accuse.

This refers to one of the most talked about and written about topics in recent times in Spain. These are important issues and it is good that they are being talked about, written about and expressed, because they are very important.

He goes on to add that three areas contribute to the discrediting: political journalism, economic journalism contaminated by the enormous power of companies and, finally, the misnamed investigative journalism in Spain, which has long been a tool of police, judges and prosecutors who take advantage of the wet dreams of journalists who believe they are the protagonists of a Watergate every morning while they contaminate the very investigations underway and the atmosphere of coexistence in Spain.

He also quoted Rubido as saying that national reconciliation was an achievement of the Transition. Concord among Spaniards was something we were proud of. A prime minister decided to break that consensus and throw an admirable milestone of the Spanish people into the dustbin of history. He was responding to a request from the most radical left, but he felt comfortable in that role and even evoked one of his grandfathers. Not the other, although he had also been in that fratricidal war.

Continuing in the vein of quoting Bieido, he said that putting an end to the terrorist activity of the Basque extreme left was not the result of a government, but of years and years of effort by the State's law enforcement and security forces and intelligence services, just as without international collaboration there would have been no end to that scourge whose embryos are still churning in the eggs of the original serpent: human wickedness.

Nicolás Redondo Terreros: In the chapter on old and new journalism, Redondo notes the similarities between the illnesses of journalists and politicians. In recent years we have had a very intense debate in Spain, followed by the old and the new politics. From this debate and the triumph of the new politics we can say that we are as we are. From the old and the new journalism we have also ended up with a situation of radical confrontation, insults, disqualification and political yellow journalism. Al Gore said that when the circus show comes through the door, politics goes out the window. That is the flaw in the new journalism.

The debate, however, is not new politics-old politics, or new journalism-old journalism. That is a superficial reading of the title of Ortega y Gasset's lecture. It is a very radical lecture, delivered in 1914, talking about all the terrible evils of Spain, and five months later the First World War broke out, to which no attention was paid at the time. This is not a question of old or new politics or old or new journalism. It is a question of good journalism or good politics. We have new instruments that are causing a crisis in journalism and convulsing politics, but they are instruments. In reality, the principles of representative democracy are the same principles as always; they are the fundamental agreement between the centre right and the centre left, between social democracy and liberalism, which has provided a pact of stability over the last sixty years that is now at some serious risk.

This leads us to think about how politics and journalism feed off each other, how it is true that, in the end, the ultimate responsibility lies with the politician, but the feeding of this tension comes not only from the politician's need but also from the journalist's interests, or from the bad action of journalists.

We are living through bad times in journalism and politics because populism has taken over political life. When journalists talk about Mariano Rajoy being the cause of Spain's ills, they are blind to the reality of the West, because populism has appeared in all countries with similar characteristics to ours. This coquettish pessimism is a very Spanish defect. We have difficulties, but you have to look at France, which, if it weren't for its institutional architecture, would be in an almost indefensible situation. We have had Trump, or the British Prime Minister, or in Eastern Europe those countries led by irate, personalistic and totalitarian characters. It is a problem we have in all the countries around us because representative democracy is in crisis.

In journalism, as in politics, we have been inundated with a kind of Paolo Coelho philosophy of the suffocating, almost totalitarian sentimentalism we live in.

Redondo quoted Rubido's conversation with Catalan businessmen from the book, because in this conversation we can see the great problem they have in Catalonia, which is fundamentally the Catalan bourgeoisie. It is the vicious vocation of always shifting responsibility to the past or to others. An elite that shifts responsibility to the past or to others does not fulfil its role in society.

Bieto makes a lot of reference to business and there is a resigned, if not negative, attitude, reminiscent of Menéndez Pidal when he says that Spain is the most egalitarian country in the West, but it does not have elites; it has powerful people. What entrepreneurs have to do is create wealth, because that is their role. But to go from powerful to elite, they have to do that and, in addition, commit themselves to the country, not to a political party or an acronym, but to a national project. In Spain there is too much dependence on institutions. This means that today, as in the past, we have powerful people, but we lack elites. Those elites that keep the country in the areas and on the paths where it needs to be.

There are three requirements to maintain a healthy distance from populisms, to define them: what relationship populist parties have with violence; what enthusiasm, or lack of enthusiasm, they have for democratic institutions; what role the media play in their interpretation of reality. These three references define populist parties. When they enter into these references, the only thing left for democratic parties to do is to maintain a healthy distance from these phenomena. In addition to the laws, the first guarantors of political democracy are the political parties in the system. If these parties fail, the system fails. This means that, on occasion, we have to say that sometimes we must forget the logic of power and simply do the right thing.

Bieito Rubido: The journalistic profession in Spain needs to be self-critical. There is a phenomenon, the false myth of investigative journalism, when there is no investigation at all except in three or four specific cases. There are leaks in which, almost always, the source is an interested party.

Another thing that journalism has yet to learn is how to apologise. The number of people who have had not only their presumption of innocence, but also their good name, their family, and who have been acquitted years later, but hardly anything has been published about the latter. Journalism is also a reflection of the society in which it develops, so there is a need for reform whereby all these cases that are brought to court have their time limits shortened and the person who sits people in the dock who are then acquitted has some kind of responsibility. Journalists have rarely apologised when people are acquitted.

Movies and TV series have done journalism a lot of harm. All journalists imagine they are going to be Ben Bradley handling the Pentagon Papers. Ben Bradley was the editor of the Washington Post during the famous Watergate, but the one who really had the courage, the merit, was the editor Katherine Graham. These films and series do a lot of damage because young people want to be the protagonists of great chapters of their professional lives in journalism. But the truth is that journalism, on a day-to-day basis, is pretty grey. Journalism is one of the most frustrated professions of all the professions in Spain. Journalists start to feel frustrated from the age of thirty-something because they don't meet their expectations and because it is a very interclassist profession in which journalists have relationships with everyone and then their life is rather more vulgar. For this reason, the journalist is a character who carries a lot of frustrations.

So journalists need to be educated in many ways. Firstly, that it is a very exciting profession, but that it has these limitations. Secondly, the subject of ethics and deontology needs to be made one of the flagship subjects in journalism. The importance of ethics and deontology needs to be inculcated in future generations of journalists. There were some journalists who, through their practices, created schools, styles, that have not done the profession any favours.

Journalism is undergoing a great digital transformation. The digital world is transforming everything, in many ways for the better, but in many ways for the worse. Future generations must know that new technologies allow us to continue doing good journalism, despite the immediacy with which things are spread. We are at a time when news does not last at all, it happens so fast that one cancels out the others. Despite this, journalism has an essence, which is the same as always: to tell good stories that appeal to people and to tell the truth. Ultimately, those two vectors are freedom and truth. That is, to work in freedom, but to tell the truth. What journalists handle are fragments of reality; they never have a global vision of the totality of what is happening. With these fragments he has to tell things and, if he is not aware that he is dealing with fragments, he sometimes does a disservice and does not realise that he is poisoning Spain's social life.

Journalists tend to think that they are friends with such and such a politician, the president of such and such a company or sports team. This is a lie, because the day one stops being a journalist or another stops being a politician, the relationships disappear and the concept of friendship is nowhere to be found.

There are many things in journalism that seem glamorous, but the reality is that, on a day-to-day basis, journalism is poorly paid, it does not redeem society. Martin Ferrand said that the journalist did not come into the world to redeem society, but to tell it the truth. The moral mandate of the journalist is to tell the truth. Then he tells the truth from the angle in which it is and, when the years go by, he discovers that the truth he believed to be true is not so. Therefore, the most important thing for a journalist is to try to tell the truth, but from an honest and humble position.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.