Introduction

On 30th January 2022, snap general elections were held in Portugal. Incumbent socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa secured an outright majority of seats in the new parliament, leading his third government. The new government took office in March 2022, including 17 ministers and 59 secretaries of State.

On 10th November 2022, the newly-appointed secretary of State Miguel Alves stepped down from his role after being formally charged with malfeasance in relation to events that took place in 2015 and 2016 when he was the mayor of the northern Portuguese municipality of Caminha.

Association

Civil society contributes to the new Portuguese Cooperation Strategy

The Portuguese Cooperation Strategy 2030 (ECP 2030), which replaces the Strategic Concept of Portuguese Cooperation 2014-2020, is a guiding instrument of public policy for International Cooperation for Development and assumes a fundamental role in the definition of the cooperation policy of the Portuguese State.

The government announced the start of the consultation process at the end of July 2022. Consultations were scheduled to stay open until the end of August 2022, during the parliamentary recess. Plataforma Portuguesa das ONGD (Plataforma), the biggest network of Portuguese NGOs, was concerned that the summer break period would discourage organisations from participating and successfully requested an extension of the consultation deadline until the end of September, to allow for greater participation despite the summer break.

Over the past two years, Plataforma and its member organisations have been working in depth on this topic and published a position paper "Vision of the Portuguese NGO Platform on the future of Portuguese Cooperation", seeking to ensure that the proposals formulated by it are integrated into the ECP 2030, in order to enhance Portugal's contribution to the construction of a fair, equitable and sustainable world.

Some of the key recommendations put forward by Portuguese civil society for the ECP 2030 are to ensure the promotion of gender equality and the fight against the effects of the ecological crisis. They advocate for more transparency and involvement of local communities and for a stronger role of civil society organisations as a partner to implement cooperation policies, including through participatory methodology.

The final draft of the strategy will be released in the following weeks. Plataforma is hoping that an action plan will soon follow to clarify the operational priorities of the strategy.

Peaceful Assembly

Climate activists urge Economy Minister to resign

The climate movement in Portugal continues to demand greater engagement of the government in the fight against climate change. High school and university students have been occupying schools and campuses to protest government inaction.

On 12thNovember 2022, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Lisbon against the climate crisis, and dozens of young climate activists stormed a building where Portugal's Economy Minister Antonio Costa e Silva was speaking, demanding that the former oil executive resign.

Consequently, five activists were detained by police. To show solidarity with the arrested, who appeared in front of a judge on 16th November, dozens of students staged a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Economy and the police station where the five were transferred.

Expression

NGO campaigns to address shortcomings of FOIA legislation

According to Transparency International (TI) Portugal, the Portuguese regime governing access to administrative and environmental information and the re-use of administrative documents (Access to Information Law) continues to present shortcomings. If a certain public entity fails to comply with the law or simply denies access to certain documents, NGOs and/or citizens can make a complaint to the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). However, CADA's opinions are not yet binding. This means that even if this Commission considers that the complaints presented are well founded and that the information must be made available, the requested entities can simply ignore its opinions.In this case, the only thing left for citizens to do is to file an administrative action in court, which entails financial burdens.

TI Portugal is currently campaigning to change the law, proposing the reinforcement and amendments to the Regime for Access to Administrative and Environmental Information, including the binding obligation of the opinions of the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents.

Incidents against journalists

  • On 2nd January 2022, the websites of Impresa media outlets, newspaper Expresso and all channels of the SIC TV station faced a cyberattack which demanded ransom. The alleged hackers, who called themselves Lapsus$ Group, published a message on the websites saying internal data would be leaked if the media group failed to pay a ransom. On 4th January 2022, Expresso went live with a provisionary website to ensure that its journalists could publish their work. The outlets describe the incident as an ‚Äúunprecedented attack on press freedom in the digital age‚ÄĚ. The attack was reported to the relevant authorities and is regarded as one of the largest cybersecurity incidents in Portugal‚Äôs history.
  • On 6th February 2022, several newspapers belonging to the Portuguese media conglomerate Cofina were targeted by a malicious cyberattack. Authorities have not yet been able to successfully link the Lapsus$ Group (see above incident) with the attack.
  • On 7th July 2022, the entire editorial staff of Jornal de Barcelos, the oldest publication in the Minho county (northern Portugal), collectively resigned after claiming that the newspaper was ‚Äúsilenced‚ÄĚ for reporting on the vice-president of the municipality of Barcelos. This resulted in the publication not making it onto the newsstands. Reacting to this, the Union of Journalists stated that such pressure is ‚Äúinadmissible in a democratic and desirably plural society‚ÄĚ. It also highlighted how funding shortages have impacted the media landscape in Portugal.
  • On 21st July 2022, during a press conference held outside parliament by Andr√© Ventura, leader of the right-wing populist party, the leader‚Äôs advisor, Manuel Matias, attacked a parliamentary journalist from the public broadcaster R√°dio e Televis√£o de Portugal (RTP). It is reported that Matias aggressively questioned the RTP journalist, whose name was not published, about their duties and role, and the conversation escalated.
  • On 27th August 2022, sports journalist Rita Latas was subjected to disciplinary proceedings by the Disciplinary Council of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) after she asked a question in a post-match interview with Sporting CP coach R√ļben Amorim which related to critical social media commentary made by another sports player. After widespread criticism, the FPF decided not to sanction Latas and stated it would seek to clarify the apparent constitutional non-compliance related to the rule in the competition regulations. The Minister of Culture, the Portuguese Union of Journalists and the Sports Journalists‚Äô Association (CNID) condemned the FPF‚Äôs decision