The time before the Catalan referendum has been called a ‘propaganda war’. The Spanish government and the people of Catalonia express their opinions through news channels, social media and in the streets. Laura Masip, a student from Barcelona, believes the propaganda from both sides brings the Catalan people together and makes them stronger than ever.

BY ELISABETH ULLA UKSNØY

It is not the first time Catalonia voted for independence. In an unofficial vote in 2014, 80% voted ‘yes’ to independence, but only 35% of the population showed up to vote. This time, the Spanish government managed to stop a lot of people from voting, and the propaganda is still going on in Catalonia.

Laura Masip is living in Barcelona herself and wants independence from Spain. She says that the Spanish propaganda came later as a reply to the Catalan propaganda, which began to increase when the government announced the self-determination referendum in June this year. “The Catalan propaganda spreads the message of being able to vote, while the Spanish propaganda focuses on following the law and the consequences if you don’t follow it”, she says.

Masip thinks the way the Spanish government handle the situation is scary. A few weeks ago the Spanish education minister Íñigo Méndez de Vigo expressed that “Nobody is above the laws and whoever violates them will face consequences”, meaning that the people who went to vote will be punished for it. But did this scaremongering scare away the Catalan people? Masip doesn’t think so: “Thanks to this propaganda from the Spanish government the citizens of Catalonia didn’t feel alone facing a repressive and never constructive government. They cannot put a whole country in jail and therefore the propaganda makes the people feel united”. She says the more the Spanish government tries to stop the referendum and the self-determination, the more Catalonia wants to leave Spain.

The majority of the propaganda in Catalonia is found online and on social media, but that the amount of more traditional propaganda is increasing. “There was a noticeable increasing of the traditional propaganda when Spanish government once again refused to make an official referendum. There are several big associations who promote the referendum and the right to practise democracy, and a big part of that is making t-shirts, posters and stickers saying for example ‘Democràcia’ or ‘Sí’”, Masip says.

Masip tells that the online propaganda regarding the referendum is quite balanced. In the streets of Barcelona however, the propaganda against the Catalan referendum is almost non-existent. “The movement against the referendum within Catalonia is much smaller in size and lesser implicated in this kind of activism”, she says. “The strategy of this part of the population is more about ignoring the issue in aim of not giving importance to it”. In the latest weeks there have appeared some stickers on traffic signs saying ‘Catalonia is Spain’, but overall, Masip says that there has never been big campaigns against the referendum arranged by people living in Catalonia.

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