Sócrates’ personal fortune of €30 million “not of public interest”, says judge

Another bizarre twist in the saga following former prime minister José Sócrates – fighting for his reputation within a tortuous corruption investigation – has seen him win a significant court battle.

Civil court judge Florbela Lança has upheld the injunction put in place 47 days ago which forbids the Cofina group – owners of the country’s best read tabloid and its television station, as well as 28 other publications – from reporting any of the more lurid case details of the Public Ministry’s ongoing Operation Marquês.

Lança explained her decision saying that “public interest should not be confused with the interest of the public” – adding that Sócrates’ personal fortune of €30 million did not fall into the category of public interest, either, reports CM this morning.

The injunction, centring on “news of the case that involves the former prime minister” is not a blanket censure, the judge is quoted as explaining. There are simply some details that should be prohibited from publication.

Giving examples, Lança mentioned the €2.1 million that the Public Ministry is quoted as having said that Sócrates received from Vale do Lobo, says CM.

Another is the takeover by Sonae of PT, which is currently being scrutinised by Portugal’s justice department.

Lança told the parties at loggerheads that she did not see “any social use” in this kind of reporting – particularly as these items of news violate the law and journalists’ ethical standards.

The presumption of innocence and defence of good name should, in other words, trounce the “right to inform”, explains CM today, which is screening a documentary “Fear of the Truth” later this evening, designed to show “the methods Sócrates has been using” to see their journalists “silenced”.

Sol website adds that should CM break the terms of the court ruling, Cofina faces a €2000 fine for each infraction, and each journalist involved would have to pay €500.

Two journalists already cited in the ban would face €1000 fine for any subsequent articles, irrespective of whether they have put their name to them, explains Sol.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com