Complaints after Portuguese prosecutors acknowledge spying on journalists By Reuters

By Catarina Demony LISBON (Reuters) – Groups representing journalists and lawyers in Portugal complained about a threat to press freedom on Wednesday after prosecutors acknowledged spying on two reporters to try to uncover their sources in a case against the Benfica football club. The prosecution acknowledged Tuesday night that it had asked police to spy on journalists in 2018, after reporters released confidential details about an investigation into Portugal’s largest soccer team. The director of the Portuguese Bar Association, Luis Menezes Leitao, told the ECO news outlet that spying on journalists was “extremely worrying” as it could undermine the freedom of the media. The SJ journalists union called the incident a threat to the “exercise of free and independent journalism.” The two journalists had published details of an investigation into what became known as the “electronic mole” scandal, in which prosecutors accused Benfica of illegally accessing court records to obtain clues about other investigations related to the club. Since then, Benfica has been acquitted, although a former club employee and a judicial official are still awaiting trial. DIAP, the investigative arm of the Portuguese prosecutor’s office, said the investigation into the club was carried out under rules prohibiting the release of information to the public. After reporters released details, he asked police to put them under surveillance, because it was of “extreme” importance to discover the source of the leaks, he said, describing the surveillance as legal. According to the Portuguese constitution, journalists have the right to “access sources of information” and protect them.

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