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European court of human rights condemns Portugal for censuring press freedom

Portugal’s judiciary is smarting today following the European Court of Human Rights’ condemnation of what it considers to have been a violation of press freedom. The case dates back to an opinion article that appeared in Visão magazine in 2004, poking fun at the then prime minister Pedro Santana Lopes. Three national courts upheld a fine of €30,000 which the ECHR now says should be (re)paid by the Portuguese State.

Visão’s holding company Medipress took the case to the ECHR, after it considered the various courts’ decisions violated article 10 of the Convention of Human Rights.

Santana Lopes cited “abuse of press freedom and defamation”, clearly furious that Visão’s writer Filipe Luís thought his idea to impose a two-commentator rule on TV talk slots “absurd and legally pretentious”.

Lopes’ ire at the time was most focused on constant drubbings by the then popular commentator Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

His idea for a ‘second opinion-maker’ on TV shows was to a bid for balance, he argued.

This has now been turned upside down by the ECHR which rules that Visão was well within its rights to what it said, and that the State should pay Medipress (back) the €30,000 it was fined, plus stump up for all necessary legal expenses.

Visão reports that the State now has three months to allow revision of the case by a special college of 17 judges.

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Caption: The then PM Santana Lopes cited “abuse of press freedom and defamation” over an opinion article published in Visão magazine