A LISBON court has ordered Prime Minister José Socrates to pay a journalist 10,000 euros following a defamation case.
The Tribunal da Relação de Lisboa found in favour of Público journalist José António Cerejo following the publishing of a letter in the paper in 2001 sent by Sócrates, the then Secretary of State for the Environment.
José António Cerejo had written a series of articles for the daily national newspaper on the state financing of Deco, the consumer rights watchdog.
His investigations allegedly revealed the hand of José Sócrates, who was then a junior minister in the António Guterres government.
The consumer rights organisation was allegedly given a subsidy of one million euros through government channels which the journalist claimed undermined the independent authority of the body amounting to its political corruption.
Seven days following the investigation, a letter written by Sócrates appeared in the newspaper under the headline of José Antonio Cerejo – deliriums, fantasies and falsehoods.
In the letter, the journalist was accused of being ‘incompetent, superficial, and engaging in and serving strange journalistic activities’.
The letter led to José Antonio Crejo suing José Sócrates for defaming his good name and demanding damages of 25,000 euros.
In the summing up of the court case, the judge decided that the insinuations made by José Sócrates had been “objectionably offensive against the good name of the journalist” whose articles “could not be considered offensive” neither should they have been suppressed for “violation of the freedoms of the press or freedom of expression.”
The judge also slammed the donation as a “political act” the nature of which should “never have been attributed (for the purchase of a headquarters) to a consumer rights organisation” from a political source.
The judge also agreed that the essential facts in the body of the articles were “essentially correct and true”.
The Prime Minister’s lawyer, Proenca de Carvalho stated that the judgement was “very unjust” and that his client would “on principle appeal against the decision.”
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