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Portugal23 September 2002

Journalist charged for refusing to reveal his sources

Reporters Without Borders today condemned as "deplorable" a Portuguese court’s decision to charge a journalist for declining to reveal his sources in a drug case and called for the matter to be dropped.

José Luis Manso Preto, who writes for the weekly Expreso and other Portuguese and Spanish publications, was detained for several hours on 20 September and charged by a Lisbon court for "refusing to obey the law" as part of investigations into drug trafficking through Morocco.

"It is deplorable that the Portuguese legal authorities have done this when confidentiality of sources should be recognised in Portugal for journalists, as it is for doctors and lawyers," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to justice minister Maria Celeste Cardona.

"Good quality investigative journalism cannot exist unless reporters can guarantee their sources of confidentiality. Portuguese legal authorities must understand that by legally destroying this principle, they are turning journalists into informers and thus endangering their lives when they work on sensitive subjects. Manso Preto has already given evidence in court and he has the right, even the duty to protect his sources," Ménard said, asking for the dropping of the charge, which he called "a bad precedent" in the years since the restoration of democracy in 1974.

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