Global Freedom of Expression

Chief Prosecutor v. Hazte Oír

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Pamphlets / Posters / Banners
  • Date of Decision
    March 2, 2017
  • Outcome
    Decision - Procedural Outcome, Motion Granted, Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Provisional Measures/ Precautionary Measures for those who exercise FoE, Ban/Censorship
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Spain, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Gender Expression, Hate Speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

A Madrid Judge ordered a bus carrying an advertisement stating, “Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Don’t let them fool you. If you’re born a man, you’re a man. If you’re a woman, you will continue to be so”, to stop operating and to remove the advertisement. The advertisement had been placed by ultra-conservative group, Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard) and the case was brought by the Chief Prosecutor of Madrid on behalf of Madrid’s City Hall. The Judge reasoned that although the advertisement didn’t amount to a hate crime, as alleged by the Chief Prosecutor, it was intended to erode the dignity of those with a different sexual orientation.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It should be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about the case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.



Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard) is an ultra-conservative catholic organization in Spain. The group placed an advertisement on a bus that stated: “Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Don’t let them fool you. If you’re born a man, you’re a man. If you’re a woman, you will continue to be so.”

Madrid City Hall ordered the police to impound the bus to prevent it from showing the message. Subsequently, the Chief Prosecutor for Madrid applied to a magistrate to order a ban on the bus until the organization removed the advertisement.

The Chief Prosecutor also argued in court that the advertisement could potentially perpetuate hate crimes and cause disturbances of the peace in Madrid.

In a statement, Hazte Oír alleged that the Madrid City Council censored its freedom of speech, as it did not respect their views. The organization also stated that it had designed the contentious campaign to speak out against teaching schoolchildren about gender and sexual diversity.

Decision Overview

The main issue before the Court was to decide if it should grant provisional measures to order a bus displaying anti-transgender propaganda to refrain from operating.

According to Madrid City Hall, the bus violated a rule that prohibits advertising in any vehicle, stationary or in movement. The rule does not apply to those vehicles used for public transportation.

The Chief Prosecutor, before the Judge, contended that the advertisement placed by the organization could stir hate crimes against people because of their identity or sexual orientation. He asked the Judge to ban the bus from operating until it took down the controversial ad.

The Judge granted the provisional measures requested by the Chief Prosecutor and ordered Hazte Oír‘s bus to cease operating until the advertisement was removed.

Although, the Judge disagreed with the prosecutor’s view that the advertisement placed on the bus could amount to a hate crime he did acknowledge that the advertisement was enough to intimidate the dignity of people with a different sexual orientation.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

On the one hand, the decision expands expression by ordering that the removal of an offensive advertisement could intimidate people with a different sexual orientation: on the other hand, the offending organization alleged that the ban affected its right to freedom of expression. The Chief Prosecutor’s contention that the advertisement could further hate crimes against people from the LGBT community, albeit rejected by the Court, is also notable because it underlines the narrow boundary between freedom of expression and hate speech.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The full precedential effect of the decision in its jurisdiction it is still undetermined.

Official Case Documents

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