13 December 2004


Journalist gets 11-month suspended sentence for refusing to reveal source

Incident details

José Luis Manso Preto



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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the 11-month suspended sentence handed down to journalist José Luis Manso Preto for refusing to reveal his source when he was called to give evidence at a drug trial.

"We object to this sentence, which constitutes a serious blow to the principle of source confidentiality," said RSF. "It runs contrary to the Goodwin ruling adopted on 27 March 1996 by the European Court of Human Rights, which recognises source confidentiality as the cornerstone of press freedom."

"This verdict means that the Portuguese courts turn journalists into informers and may also expose them to danger when they investigate sensitive cases. We hope it will be overturned on appeal so as not to create a dangerous precedent in Portugal," the organisation added.

Manso Preto was sentenced by a Lisbon court on 10 December 2004. The suspended 11-month jail term can be activated if he is involved in any new case over the next three years.

Backed by the entire Portuguese journalistic profession, Manso Preto has decided to appeal the verdict. "If I had revealed my sources, my professional career would be in ruins," he told the press as he left court.

The case against the journalist goes back two years, when he was convicted of contempt of court. At the time he was a stringer for the weekly "Expresso", working on a drug traffic investigation. He used information given to him by a police official to reveal details about a police operation to catch drug-traffickers.

The lawyer for the three suspects called for Manso Preto to be summonsed as a witness and to reveal the name of his informant. Citing source confidentiality, Manso Preto has always refused to name the police official.

The principle of source confidentiality is recognised in Portugal, except in cases where a journalist has prior knowledge of a crime that is to be committed, when he is bound to reveal his sources. Manso Preto has always maintained that revealing his source in this case would not have prevented any crime from being committed.


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