Apimprensa raises alarm about press freedom violation in Portugal
At the end of October, EMMA's Portuguese member Apimprensa expressed its strong concern for how a court "devalued the freedom of the press in Portugal" following a ruling that bars the publisher of the Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã from reporting on a corruption investigation into former prime minister Jose Socrates. The court’s decision came after Socrates, who was Portugal's center-left prime minister from 2005-2011 and who was arrested in November 2014 on suspicions of tax fraud, money laundering and accepting bribes, filed an injunction against Grupo Cofina Media, the publishers of the newspaper.
The injunction alleged that journalists were publishing privileged information that they only had access to as a result of their role as assistants of the public prosecutor. In Portugal, when the reason for the trial is in the public interest (e.g. corruption, abuse of power, etc.), there is a possibility for citizens to take part in the investigation as assistants. In regard to this case, a group of journalists from this media group joined this process, which resulted in the journalists gaining access to confidential data about the investigation that they weren’t at liberty to disclose.
The difficulty in this case, however, is distinguishing what information was collected as a result of journalistic investigation and what information is the result of the journalists’ privileged access to the investigation. For this reason, the ruling will likely result in the media group facing strong consequences if they publish any information about their investigation into the case, regardless of the source. Apimprensa therefore argues that the judicial decision may “contribute very significantly to further worsen the already difficult performance conditions of journalists” and asks other international bodies to speak out about the decision. In addition, Apimprensa also urges for the reinstallation of Portugal's Press Council, a self-regulatory body that operated in Portugal from 1974 until it was dismantled in 1989.
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