Freedom bloggers demonstrate in front of Parliament

By Chris Graeme [email protected]

Scores of young people concerned at the degradation of freedom of expression and the rights of an unfettered media demonstrated in front of the Portuguese Parliament last week.

The group, Todos Pela Liberdade (All for Freedom), are to hand in a 9,000 signature petition to Jaime Gama, the president of the Assembleia da República.

Ana Margarida Craveiro, spokesman for the group, told the Algarve Resident: “What’s been going on in Portugal is even worse than just putting pressure on newspaper editors to toe a particular line. It’s a case of using the economic power of public entities to buy the owners of the newspapers and media groups in order to “review” their editorial options and we find that totally unacceptable in a democratic country that needs to have regular democratic institutions functioning normally.”

Many of the group, sporting white sweatshirts bearing the words “All for Freedom”, are students and bloggers who have been expressing their indignation at the recent events unfolding in the media around the Face Oculta scandal (Hidden Face), in which it is alleged that the Prime Minister and his inner circle have been using their influence over public and private business figures to buy up media groups critical of government policies and style.  (read story above).

Ana Margarida Craveiro said that the Prime Minister didn’t “seem to understand the gravity of the situation” and hadn’t answered for it.

The political activist gave the example of the editorial manipulation of the independent TV station TVi and plans to purchase various media groups using money from Portugal Telecom in which the government has a ‘Golden Share’.

“We are only asking the Prime Minister to justify these actions and we are asking for the accountability of political powers – we find that a normal demand in a democratic country,” she added.

Jaime Gama did not receive the petition on the day but marked a future date in his agenda since it is not customary in Portugal to meet with demonstrators and petitioners on the same day that a demonstration is carried out.

However, after lunch, deputies from the PSD, CDS, PCP and BE parties did meet the demonstrators, although no parliamentary representative from the ruling PS party was available to talk to the group.

“The Prime Minister seems to have difficulties in dealing with journalists and coping with people who don’t share his opinion,” she said.

When asked by this newspaper if she thought that the Prime Minister should resign, she said: “We’re not asking for the Prime Minister’s resignation; that’s an issue for society’s democratically elected representatives in parliament. We just want answers.

“The President of the Republic, the Parliament and judicial bodies should not remain indifferent in the face of a deterioration of democratic freedoms and threats to freedom of expression,” she concluded.