The centre-right government is reforming the virtually bankrupt state TV company, RTP, which has a 1 billion euro deficit. At first it wanted to reduce the two RTP channels to a single general one without advertising. The opposition said this was a serious threat to the state media’s independence and the proposal stirred protests.
The RTP’s new board, named by the government to implement the reforms, was rejected by the Advisory Council, a group of respected figures, on 16 May 2002. The Constitutional Court rejected amendments to the television law on 12 June, saying they did not guarantee the station’s independence from the government.
President Jorge Sampaio signed a law on 15 July making it easier to shut down a money-losing public channel and removing the Advisory Council’s power to give an opinion on the composition of the RTP board. To guarantee the board’s political impartiality, an independent High Authority in charge of the media was given a veto over appointments.
Nuno Morais Sarmento, the minister for the presidency in charge of the media, announced on 18 December that the plan for a single channel had been dropped and that two would be maintained, with advertising.
Pressure and obstruction
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 with "refusing to obey the law" and reveal his sources for a story about drug trafficking through Morocco. The Portuguese journalists’ code of conduct forbids such revelation, even to a court, unless the source has tried to use the journalist to plant false information.