Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chilling effect

The portuguese Prime Minister presides over a Government which persecutes people who criticize the way the country is ruled or who make jokes about the Prime Minister himself. In the last months high ranking civil servants have been punished either because they joked about Mr. Socrates university degree (altough the alleged joke was made in a private conversation) or because they allowed public criticism over the health policy and its Minister, Mr. Correa de Campos. In these last weeks important industrialists said that some of the sponsors of a technical report about the placement of a new international airport - which contradicts Mr. Socrates decision - wished to remain incognito because they feared retaliation from the government in contracts with their companies. In general there are worrying signs of political harassment by over zealous officials, but until now none of the ministers or the prime minister himself have condemned what happened. Instead, the Prime Minister decided to persecute in Court the author of a Blog that led and first hand released an investigation about the academic degree of Mr. Socrates and the way it was obtained. All the national press followed the leads in that blog, and some of the newspapers digged deeper than the blogger. It was clear there were contradictions between Mr. Socrates official CV and the University archives. Following the investigation, the private University where Mr. Socrates obtained his degree was shut down by Government decision, in the middle of an unexpected turmoil.
Freedom House; Reporters sans frontièrs
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