More than 6,000 journalists have lost their jobs in Spain in the three years since the economic crisis broke out, the industry warned ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Thursday.
"It is the most severe situation journalism in Spain has gone through in all its history," said Elsa Gonzalez, president of the Spanish Federation of Journalists' Associations.
"The figures for the last quarter are alarming and the outlook is dark."
The association, which represents 21,000 members of the profession, says that 6,234 journalists have lost their jobs since the worst of the financial and economic crisis began in late 2008.
Fifty-seven media organisations have closed down and 23 have made lay-offs.
Now Spain's two biggest-selling daily newspaper, El Pais and El Mundo, are planning mass job cuts too, says Fernando Cano, editor of the specialist media news site prnoticias.com.
El Mundo plans to lay off a third of its journalists, cutting some 195 jobs, and El Pais is likely to make comparable cuts, he said.
The left-wing daily Publico, which champions victims of the economic crisis and criticises the ruling class, now has only an online presence since it scrapped its print edition in February with the loss of 160 jobs.
"It is a situation of unemployment and also of precariousness, because salaries have fallen in all the media," Gonzalez said.
Cano added: "They must do the same work with fewer people and those who remain have their salaries reduced. They are under more pressure and must work more while earning less."
It is harming the quality of news coverage, he argued.
"If a news organization is so weakened, it cannot fulfill its role of guaranteeing the citizens' right to free information," Gonzalez said.
"If it receives information that is well presented, it gets published or broadcast directly, without checking or digging to see what lies behind it."
As in the case of Publico, falling advertising revenue is the cause.
Cano says that advertising revenues have fallen by 22 percent in the press, 17 percent in television and 11 percent in radio.
Spain's economic crisis dates to the bursting of its construction bubble in 2008.
"In Spain, just like in construction, everything is oversized," Cano said.
"As well as having lots of general newspapers, it is unusual in having three locals in every province. It is just not viable," he added. "A restructuring of the sector is clearly needed. This cannot go on."
The federation has called for rallies in 40 towns across Spain on Thursday to mark World Press Freedom Day, to "demand better conditions for journalists and raise awareness that weakening journalism also weakens democracy."
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