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Portugal: four journalists under illegal police surveillance

As part of the MFRR, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and International Press Institute condemns the surveillance of four Portuguese journalists, at the request of Lisbon public prosecutor Andrea Marques, as part of the investigation into leaks related to the “e-Toupeira” corruption case, launched in March 2018.

On 13 January 2021, Portuguese media revealed that a number of journalists were secretly monitored between April and May 2018 by the surveillance department of the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP).

The surveillance programme was ordered by Lisbon public prosecutor Andrea Marques as part of a wider investigation into high-level leaks related to the “electronic mole” scandal involving Benfica football club.

Without prior authorisation from an investigating judge and in order to identify the sources of the journalists, Prosecutor Marques ordered, on 3 April 2018, the police to record the SMS exchanges of journalists Silvia Caneco (“Visao”), Isabel Horta (“SIC”), Carlos Rodrigues Lima (“Sabado”) and Henrique Machado (“Correio da Manha” and TVI).

The police even obtained access to the personal bank account of one of the journalists. Carlos Rodrigues Lima was heard as a suspect on 30 November 2020 and Henrique Machado was also heard as a suspect on 8 January 2021.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), its affiliate the Portuguese Union of Journalists (SJ) and International Press Institute (IPI) denounces this clear violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, considering its importance for press freedom in a democratic society and the potentially chilling effect that an order for disclosure of a source has on the exercise of that freedom.