Deterrence of fraud with EU funds through investigative journalism in EU-27: Threats and intimidation do occur within the EU-27, though, as IPI wrote: ‘Scandals erupted in Portugal, France and Slovakia when governments sought to obtain mobile telephone data to determine the identities of journalists’ sources, while in the United Kingdom the ongoing News of the World phone hacking scandal raised fears of a push for increased government regulation.’
Portugal has only known a free press since the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, when the dictatorship was ousted. For several decades after that, investigative reporting boomed, according to a 2005 study. Parts of the media were nationalized and party-affiliated, but there were so many media outlets that different voices could be heard and audiences were eager and enormous.
As in many countries, the Portuguese media over the last years have felt the impact of the financial crisis, with advertising losses, downsizing of print circulation, and declining readership. Still, despite its small language area within the EU, Portugal has six main national newspapers, four dailies and four weeklies. One national newspaper was created in the midst of the economic crisis: i newspaper, with its magazine style front page and a thriving website was launched in May 2009.
Six large media groups control most of the news outlets in the country, all of them with, to at least some extent, foreign-held capital. Most widely read are the dailies Jornal de Notícias, Diário de Notícias and Correio da Manhã, and the weekly Expresso.
There are around 300 local and regional private radio stations; Radio Renascença, which is run by the Catholic Church, has the highest audience. Commercial networks SIC and TVI have been making gains in audience (though not automatically financially) in recent years, providing serious competition for the government-funded public broadcasting channels RTP1 and RTP2.
According to the new government (coalition PSD/CDS) one of the public TV channels will be sold to the private sector before the end of 2012. The state also partly owns press agency Lusa, which is transforming itself into a multimedia news agency, and seven radio stations.
Investigative reporting is lacking in most of the general media, according to contributors to this report. There is no journalists’ association providing training or networking, the only center specifically aiming at media training (CENJOR) teaches journalism classes, but not resulting in a larger investigative output yet. ‘In a country where institutions do not work there is no reason journalism would be the exception, obviously’, said one of the respondents to the study.
Occasional investigative work has a national scope, with the exception of individual journalists contributing to investigative cooperatives as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ICIJ.
According to Freedom House, ‘Portugal passed an access to information law in 2003, which is in effect in addition to the 1993 Law of Access to Administrative Documents’. But Wobbing.eu found no proof of active use of FOI laws. Contributors to this report seldom notice use of documents as a tool for building proof in (investigative) stories. ‘The Law and the institution (CADA) created to allow access to administrative documents exist, but the opacity remains a reality.
Most public institutions refuse to disclose even innocuous documents. The cult of secrecy is a reality still today,’ one reporter remarked. Also, the law allows anyone the right of denial of a report, which the press has to publish, even if the basis of the denial is sketchy.
Portugal slightly moved up on the Reporters Sans Frontières Press Freedom Index 2011-2012, from 40th to 33rd position, therewith breaking a downward trend and showing that an economic crisis doesn’t automatically mean infringement on press freedom, as is the case in Greece. But due to strong political affiliation of media owners and editors in chief, there is doubt about true independence amongst critical journalists.
(via Joana Palminha, no FB)