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Press in Portugal - Historical Overview

The first Portuguese newspaper was published in 1641. It had the extremely long title: "Gazeta, em que se relatam as novas todas, que ouve nesta corte, e que vieram de várias partes no mês November 1641" ("Gazeta, that reports all the news, heard in this court, and which dates from various moments in the month of November 1641"). News items had been previously disclosed in the so-called "relações" (reports), although these weren’t published with the periodicity that is typical of a newspaper. The “gazettes”, however, were published on a regular basis.

The main advance in the development of journalism in Portugal occurred during the nineteenth century. Consistent with the principles of the 1820 Liberal Revolution, the censorship that until that time had been exercised by the Inquisition, or by the political authorities, was abolished. Freedom of speech was enshrined in the constitution, and the first Press Law was enacted (The Letter of Law, of 4 July 1821). Freedom of the Press was subsequently enshrined in the liberal constitution of 23 September 1822. And in the midst of revolutionary fervour, on 18 April 1835, the daily newspaper, Açoriano Oriental was published for the first time in Ponta Delgada (in the island of São Miguel, Azores). This is the oldest newspaper in Portugal, and is also considered to be the second oldest newspaper in Europe.


Great classics of Portuguese print journalism were launched before the fall of the monarchy in 1910 - such as the "Diário de Notícias" (29 December 1864) - which ushered in the country's first system of classified advertisements and therefore could be sold inexpensively - " O Primeiro de Janeiro" (1869), "Jornal de Notícias" (1888), "Jornal do Comércio" (1853), "O Comércio do Porto" (1854) and "O Século" (1881). The latter three newspapers no longer exist. It was also during the nineteenth century that the "Diário dos Açores" (5 February 1870) and the "Diário de Notícias" of Madeira (1876) began to be published.

The first Press Law of the Republic was published by the Decree of 28 October 1910. The Republic had been proclaimed on 5 October, 1910. Already in article 2 of the law, censorship in any form or guise was forbidden. The First Republic (1910 - 1926) symbolized a period of press freedom, which wasn’t however complete - as proven by the existence of the singular system of censorship involving blank spaces, imposed from 1916 onwards, following the entry of Portugal in World War I (1914-1918) and which lasted until February 1919.


In the wake of the military coup of 28 May 1926, censorship was introduced, which lasted until the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship. Indeed, censorship – which was called "preliminary examination" in the final years of the dictatorship (Law no. 5/71, of 5 November) – would only be abolished after 25 April 1974, when a coup finally terminated 48 years of dictatorship.

It should be noted, however, that censorship was only abolished in full at a later date. Indeed, in June 1974, Decree-Law no. 281/74, of 25 June, created an "ad hoc committee, of a transitory nature, for control of the press, radio, television, theatre and cinema", wherein it was expected that this ad-hoc committee would remain "in office until the publication of new laws for the press, radio, television, theatre and cinema". The same law published a Regulation in its annex that classified the various offences that could be committed by the media.

The 1st Press Law, approved 10 months after 25 April 1974 by Decree-Law no. 85-C/75, of 26 February, reflected the conquest of fundamental freedoms and the end of censorship offered by the country’s new democratic and political reality, established on that date. Although the preamble of the 1st Press Law enacted during the new period of freedom of the press, stated that, publication of this law puts "an end to the transitional phase that has been experienced in the Portuguese press, providing full consecration to freedom of expression of thought by the press, that is incorporated within the right to information”, the aforementioned ad hoc committee was only terminated by the Resolution of the Revolution Council, of 10 October 1975 published in the “Diário do Governo”, on 29 October,1975, eight months after publication of Decree-Law no. 85-C/75, of 26 February.

With the end of censorship, a radical transformation in the media sector occurred. In the post-revolutionary phase, there were significant incompatibilities between the various ideological-political party trends that directly affected the media. Conflicts multiplied between administration and management and workers committees and editorial boards, that had been elected in the meantime. These conflicts sometimes attained extreme and irreconcilable proportions, as occurred in the "República case", in May and June, 1975, that acquired international projection. The clashes led to the closure of this evening newspaper, which had been published for 62 years.

"The debate within the media system was naturally integrated within the wider struggle to define the nature of the political regime" (MESQUITA, Mário, "O Universo dos Media entre 1974 e 1986" (The Universe of Media between 1974 and 1986), in: Portugal, 20 Anos de Democracia (Portugal, 20 Years of Democracy), Círculo de Leitores, Lisbon, 1994, p. 361). The result of this combat, first and foremost, was the production of the founding legislative diplomas of the new media framework, namely the Press Law cited above (Decree-Law no. 85-C/75, of 26 February) and the Constitution approved by the Constituent Assembly on 2 April 1976 (entry in force on the 25 April). According to Mário Mesquita, the main legal instruments relating to the sector, designed at this time, denoted the triumph of democratic and pluralistic conceptions (IDEM, ibidem, p. 386).

Note: Decree-Law no.85-C/75, of 26 February, with its subsequent amendments, was repealed by the press law that is currently in force (Law no. 2/99, of 13 January).

On the other hand, the political regime established after 25 April 1974 nationalised the main daily newspapers. The state thereby secured control over the following morning newspapers, "O Século", "Jornal do Comércio", "O Comércio do Porto" and the evening newspapers, "Diário Popular" and "A Capital". Prior to the 1974 revolution, the state already controlled, via the Caixa Geral de Depósitos, the morning newspapers, "Diário de Notícias" and "Jornal de Notícias". Although the majority of its share capital was privately owned, the evening newspaper, "Diário de Lisboa" was also linked to the State, via the shareholding held by the Banco Nacional Ultramarino. The evening newspaper, "República" and the morning newspaper "O Primeiro de Janeiro" remained in the private sector.



Via the Normative Order no. 43/77, published in the "Diário da República" on 18 February 1977, the following publications of the former Sociedade Nacional de Tipografia were suspended for a 90-day period: the newspaper, "O Século" and the magazines, "Modas e Bordados", "Vida Mundial" and "O Século Ilustrado". In August 1977, the Council of Ministers decided to definitively terminate these publications, together with the "Jornal do Comércio" (Resolution no. 242/77, published on 1 October, 1977 in the "Diário da República).



Two years later, the Government decided to terminate and liquidate the public company, Jornal O Século (Decree no. 162/79, of 29 December), because it considered that the company had no chance of achieving economic viability.

During the 1980s, the media journals that had been nationalized were privatised. The evolution of print journalism, at this time, is characterized, moreover, by the success of old and new titles with a populist appeal, including "A Capital" (1968-2005), "Correio da Manhã" (1979) and "Tal & Qual" (1980-2007).


Alongside this more populist tendency, specialist journals began to be published, in order to respond to new demands from different segments of public opinion, in the field of political and cultural information. We thus reach another aspect that has marked the evolution of the Portuguese press since the 1980s onwards - consolidation of the existing generalist weekly newspapers and the emergence of new weekly newspapers as the leading titles. The most significant examples are "Expresso" (1973), "O Jornal" (1975-1992), "Semanário" (1983-2009), "O Independente" (1988-2006) and "Euronotícias" (1999-2002). 



Finally it is important to highlight the disappearance of the evening newspapers. In 1990, "Diário de Lisboa" and "Diário Popular", that had been launched in 1921 and 1942, respectively, ceased to be published.



In the meantime, many other nationwide newspapers had come and gone in the years after 25 April 1974, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. A non-exhaustive list includes the daily newspapers "O Diário", "Jornal Novo", "Luta", "Notícias da Tarde", "Portugal Hoje" and "A Tarde"; and the weekly newspapers "Página Um", "O País", "O Ponto" and "Tempo" and the magazines "Opção" and "Flama", wherein the latter was launched prior to 25 April 1974.



On 30 July 2005, the daily newspapers, "O Comércio do Porto" (1854) and "A Capital" (1968) closed – wherein the former was a morning newspaper and the latter an evening newspaper.



On 1 September 2006, the weekly newspaper, "O Independente" (1988) closed. 

On 28 September 2007, another weekly newspaper –"Tal & Qual" (1980) closed.

 On 16 October 2009, the weekly newspaper, "Semanário" (1983) closed.

 On 29 June 2010, the daily newspaper, "24 Horas" (1998) closed.

 On the following day – 30 June 2010 – the free daily newspaper, "Global Notícias" also closed. 

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Page updated on 07-07-2014 11:16:38