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Culture minister resigns after threatening to give journalists a good slapping

João Soares, son of former PS legend and president Mário Soares – and prime minister António Costa’s controversial choice for Culture minister – has resigned after a bitter row following comments posted on his Facebook page suggesting he wanted to give two columnists a good slapping. His actual words were “two slaps” – presumably one for each writer.

Known for his outspoken comments, Soares was only recently in the headlines for replacing the popular head of the Centro Cultural de Belém with one of his friends, reports SIC television news.

The way he did it – saying if the man didn’t leave voluntarily, he would turn up personally to remove him – caused uproar, with many questioning why Soares had been given the job of Culture minister altogether.

But his Facebook comments took the biscuit.

Prime minister António Costa apologised to the Público journalists himself, saying the situation “did not translate into the way the government wants to relate” to culture.

Ministers “wherever they are cannot forget they are ministers”, he added – a feeling echoed by critics who began demanding Soares’ resignation almost the minute he posted his tirade.

Soares’ subsequent apologies and the explanation that he is essentially “a peaceful man” did not seem to be doing the trick, and the jowled former mayor of Lisbon was left with little choice but to tender his resignation.

Costa told reporters last week that “naturally” he accepted it.

As for the journalists at the centre of the row, Vasco Pulido Valente seems to have taken it all in his stride, saying he was “waiting for the slapping”, while Augusto M Seabra was not amused in the least and called Soares’ remarks “an attack on liberty of expression and the constitutional rights of citizens”.

Soares’ outburst followed the columnists’ less than favourable critiques on his performance as Minister for Culture.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com