Portugal | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2015

2015 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Legal Environment

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution. Laws that limit free speech, for example by prohibiting denigration of religious and ethnic minorities, are rarely used against journalists.

A 2007 revision of the Journalist Statute allows courts investigating criminal cases to order journalists to divulge their confidential sources. Lawmakers argued that the identity of sources would, in many instances, be too difficult to procure through other means, but journalists asserted that the revision would effectively allow judges to make them carry out police work. In February 2014, a court rejected an appeal by the Sindicato dos Jornalistas—Portugal’s journalist union—after police searched the home of freelance journalist Manso Preto and seized computers in March 2013. A judge ruled that the action was not prohibited under the Journalist Statute, and the computers were not protected as journalistic materials, because the raid was carried out at the reporter’s home in connection with an alleged crime unrelated to his profession. The Sindicato dos Jornalistas said it would consider filing an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

Defamation and libel are criminal offenses under Articles 180 and 181 of the penal code, and penalties are increased by one half if the offended party is a public official. In April 2014, the soccer team FC Porto sued the sports daily A Bola over comments made by journalist Miguel Sousa Tavares in a column; the team sought €1 million ($1.3 million) in compensation. The same journalist had been placed under investigation in May 2013 for calling President Aníbal Cavaco Silva a “clown” in a newspaper interview, though the matter was later dropped.

Also in April 2014, the European Court of Human Rights faulted a 2009 decision to fine an editor and a reporter from Jornal do Centro €2,000 ($2,700) each for allegedly defamatory comments printed in 2002, finding that it had violated the journalists’ rights. In November, the European Parliament declined to lift the immunity of Socialist Party member Ana Gomes when Portuguese defense minister José Pedro Aguiar Branco sought to have her tried for defamation; in a televised interview, she had raised the possibility of corruption involving his law firm.

The current access to information law was enacted in 2007, replacing the 1993 Law of Access to Administrative Documents, and public records are largely available in practice to both domestic and foreign journalists.


Political Environment

The media are generally free from political interference. However, current and former politicians often act as political commentators, and political parties rely increasingly on pundits to promote their agendas. In April 2013, former Socialist Party prime minister José Sócrates joined state broadcaster Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) as a political commentator, along with former cabinet minister Nuno Morais Sarmento of the Social Democratic Party. The growing economic and political influence of Angola in Portugal has also affected the media sector. In October 2014, Angola’s ambassador to Portugal verbally attacked the Portuguese media for attempting to tarnish the country’s image.

Cases of physical harassment or intimidation of journalists are rare. In May 2013 the Sindicato dos Jornalistas expressed concern over a trend in which reporters were harassed and attacked at sporting events, though no such incidents were reported in 2014. In March, a press officer with the Social Democratic Party reportedly assaulted a photojournalist with the Global Imagens agency outside a meeting of the party’s national leadership.


Economic Environment

Portugal has several daily newspapers and two main weeklies. State-run and state-financed media outlets are considered to be editorially independent. There is a wide variety of privately owned local and regional radio stations; Rádio Renascença, which is run by the Roman Catholic Church, commands a large audience. Commercial television has been making gains in recent years, providing serious competition for the underfunded public broadcasting channels. The internet penetration rate in Portugal reached about 65 percent in 2014. Many prominent journalists and politicians contribute to social media and blogs.

The media in Portugal have felt the impact of the economic crisis that began in 2008–09, suffering from advertising losses and shrinking print circulation. This has led some media outlets to enter into financial arrangements that may compromise their independence. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported in March 2013 on a significant influx of Angolan money into Portugal’s media sector. Angolan shareholders in the Newshold media group control large stakes in outlets such as Sol, one of Portugal’s largest weeklies, as well as two major magazines, a leading tabloid, and an important business paper. According to CPJ, Portuguese outlets are under pressure to self-censor and avoid antagonizing their Angolan patrons, whose investments are critical to their continued operation.

The lack of job security for many younger journalists makes them more vulnerable to self-censorship and pressure regarding content. Several outlets carried out large-scale layoffs in 2012 and 2013. Though layoffs slowed in 2014, job opportunities for journalists remained scarce.