University students rally in Barcelona ahead of Sunday's independence referendum.
University students rally in Barcelona ahead of Sunday's independence referendum. Maria Subirana

Independence groups claim pro-Catalan websites targeted

By Lydia Smith, The Independent

CATALAN authorities have accused the Spanish government of blocking websites aimed to spread information about the region's independence referendum.

The move is part of a crackdown on the Catalan independence movement to prevent the vote.

Despite the confiscation of ballot papers and deployment of extra police to Catalonia, separatists hope the referendum will go ahead on October 1 to decide whether the autonomous region of north-eastern Spain should declare itself an independent country.

The Spanish government insist the referendum is illegal and is taking action to stop it, including the spreading of information seen to promote the vote.

Earlier this week, police summoned 17 people for questioning over the development of web platforms related to the referendum.

A police spokesperson told AFP the people were suspected of "disseminating a website for people to participate in a referendum declared illegal by the constitutional court.”

An organisation which manages how users find websites with the extension .cat was raided by the Spanish police force, Politico reported.

The .cat Foundation, which manages the register of domains ending in .cat, was forced by authorities to block websites with information about the referendum, Politico reported, on the order of a Spanish Court.

The homepage of the site Referendum.cat now displays a message stating: "This domain name has been seized pursuant to a seizure warrant under the Judicial Authority and is under its administration.”

A spokesman for the Catalan government told the Guardian the move was denying people the right to freedom of information online.

"What they're doing by blocking domain name servers is doing what Turkey does and what China does and what North Korea does,” he said.

"No Western democracy does that. The internet is the kingdom of freedom.”

- INM



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