Spain's main newspaper publishers on Friday blasted a New York Times article that raised questions over the editorial independence of the nation's print media, slamming the report as "caricature".
The article published in the New York Times on November 5 said that "many in the industry say the formidable combination of government and financial pressures has blunted their ability to cover any range of conflicts of interest among big business and politicians.
The Association of Spanish Newspaper Editors, which represents the publishers of 80 national and local newspapers, said in a statement that "the article creates a caricature of the news reality" in Spain and contained "conventional thinking that was not cross-checked".
The association said it "defends freedom of the press in Spain", before adding that this mission "has been especially notorious during the years of economic crisis, when questioning traditional (power) structures has been especially intense on the part of media outlets".
Among the sources cited by the New York Times in its article was veteran Spanish journalist Miguel Angel Aguilar, who had written a column for top-selling Spanish daily El Pais since 1994. The newspaper ended his column just days after the New York Times article was published.
"The newspapers are in the hands of creditors, and also in those of a government that has helped convince the creditors that the papers should be kept alive rather than just asphyxiated because of their debts," Aguilar was quoted as saying in the article.
"This is a situation of dependency that has done terrible damage to the credibility of the media in this country," he added.
"Working at El Pais used to be the dream of any Spanish journalist. But now there are people so exasperated that they’re leaving, sometimes even with the feeling that the situation has reached levels of censorship."
- 'We stand behind it' -
The New York Times stood by its article.
"We were surprised by the reaction to our story by both El Pais and the Association of Spanish Newspaper Editors," the newspaper's spokesman Eileen Murphy told AFP.
"We have looked into the issues they raised and have concluded that there are no substantive errors in the story and no problems with its broader themes. We stand behind it."
El Pais said in a statement it had informed Aguilar before the publication of the New York Times article that it would stop publishing his columns since he had started his own publication, Ahora, and this venture was "incompatible" with his contribution to the paper.
El Pais on Thursday published an article about the difficulties the New York Times has had to expand in Latin America.
The paper publishes an online edition in Spanish aimed at the Latin American market, where it competes with El Pais which aims to be the newspaper of record in the Spanish speaking world.