The publisher of Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã has been banned from publishing news about Operation Marquês and José Sócrates’ role in the intricate web of corruption that led to his arrest and imprisonment.
The former prime minister’s lawyers successfully obtained an injunction against Cofina, owner of the title and others all of which now are banned from covering the case which is soon to keep the nation enthralled as to the depths of corrupt practices in the corridors of power in Portugal.
The court decision takes immediate effect and if the paper continues to keep its readers informed by publishing stories damaging to Sócrates’ reputation, as it has been doing, Cofina faces significant fines.
In a statement sent to newsrooms today the defence team acting for Sócrates reported on the judgment of the Lisbon court dated 26 October 2015.
The court accepted the lawyers' application to block all of Cofina’s titles, namely Correio da Manhã, Destak, Jornal de Negócios and the weekend journal, Sábado.
The newspapers are banned from publishing details of Operation Marquês including transcripts of telephone conversations that show the former PM in a less than honest light.
The ruling also prohibits the journalists António Sérgio Azenha and Sónia Trigueirão of editing, publishing or disseminating, even to other Cofina journalists, details of the case by any means, on paper, in electronic form or tapes, on radio or television, by direct transcription or any other indirect way the substance of any evidence being used in Operation Marquês.
The court also ordered that any copies of the printed edition of Correio da Manhã still circulating, which have damaging reports about the former PM, are withdrawn and delivered to the court within three days.
In today’s printed edition of Correio da Manhã, the injunction was covered as the main news item which referred to the gagging order.
João Araújo, the main lawyer acting for the former prime minister, believes that the newspaper has a vendetta against his client.
The deputy director of Correio da Manhã, Eduardo Damaso, says the Cofina group will accord with the injunction but will oppose it in court and will keep up its investigations even though it can not print them, for the time being.
"This decision will not stop Correio da Manhã scrutinising Sócrates," ran today’s editorial written by Damaso who said the court decision clashes "with national law and European Court of Human Rights legislation."
"The injunction was requested by Sócrates’ defence and has the effect of silencing Correio da Manhã on this case, but does not silence Sócrates or his lawyers. In a democracy we should have as pillars the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. This type of gagging order is dangerously approaching censorship," said Eduardo Damaso.
José Sócrates was arrested on November 21 2014, at Lisbon airport, and indicted for the crimes of qualified tax fraud, money laundering and accepting bribes for tort.
He was remanded in custody in Évora prison for 41 weeks and then released to remain under house arrest. He was released last week.