(RSF) Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the Portuguese parliament’s adoption of two laws increasing the penalties for crimes against media personnel, which are in line with RSF’s recommendations for better protection for journalists.
Portugal’s journalists will have special protected status under the new laws, which were proposed jointly by the Socialist Party (PS) and Left Bloc (BE) and were approved on 9 February. They amend article 132 of the Portuguese criminal code and reinforce legal and criminal protection for media personnel.
The new legislation adds journalists to the categories of “protected” persons – joining judges, lawyers, witnesses, security personnel and sports referees – against whom such offences as threats, constraint, defamation and insult are treated as serious crimes in the same way as murder, physical violence and abduction.
RSF registered three cases of violence against reporters in Portugal in 2017. One in particular caused a major outcry and prompted much discussion of the problem. It was an attack by the parents of students on a TV crew from state-owned broadcaster RTP that went to a school to cover a sexual assault case. As a result of the attack, which was filmed, RTP’s editorial board asked to appear before parliament to discuss measures to protect journalists and the freedom to inform.
“We sought a solution designed to reduce the number of potential abuses and to protect journalists’ physical safety and freedom of movement,” said Left Bloc legislator Jorge Campos, one of the proponents of the two bills.
Campos pointed out that this legislation has been drafted at a time when the Portuguese media are experiencing major financial problems and journalists are often unable file lawsuits because they cannot afford the legal costs.
“We welcome the Portuguese parliament’s approval of this positive initiative designed to reinforce legislative protection for journalists in the course of their work,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.
“These measures are in line with RSF’s recommendations, which promote reinforcement of international regulations on journalists’ safety and the creation of special post dedicated to this task, the post of special representative of the UN secretary-general for the protection of journalists. RSF also makes recommendations for reinforcing legislation at the country level.”*
Portugal is ranked 18th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.