Saturday, 6 October 2018

Who is afraid of the McCann? South Yorkshire Police force, for sure, among many others...

  • Keela, the "no-more-wonder-dog-after-Maddie's investigation", with former South Yorkshire Police Force Chief-Constable, Meredydd Hughes
It took me more than one month to get a reply to three plain, simple and clear journalistic questions I addressed to South Yorkshire Police Force. They just ignored my two first emails. I had to file a request, under the FOI act, to get a reply. They told me I had to “refine” my FOI request, as the subject of any request under that act must be only related to “recorded information”.
So I did it and these are the questions SYPF Information Commissioner's Office accepted and answered, I must say very fast [the day after I refined my questions]:

5 October 2018
Paulo Reis
Dear Mr Reis
Freedom of Information Request - Reference No: 20181838

1. What is the date that the page dedicated to Keela was replaced by a age
progressed picture of Madeleine McCann?

2. Does South Yorkshire Police still use Keela on crime investigations?

I approached our Corporate Communications team for assistance with your request. A Communications Officer has provided the following response:

1 – We moved to a new website late last year. As a result of this, any old news
stories/webpages no longer exist.

Our formal response to this element of your request is therefore one of ‘no information held’.

2 – Keela is no longer a serving police dog.

The Information Commissioner's Office,

Yours sincerely
Lucy Moore


PS: The answer to the first question is not correct. The content of the page was replaced, first, with a fixed age-progressed picture of Madeleine McCann, and in the last weeks, with pictures of different missing people. This is visible, because the web address of the page still exists:

This wouldn't happen if the SYPF website had “moved to a new website late last year” and, as a result of that change, “any old news stories/webpages no longer exist.” If this was the case, the message for that link will be a "404", indicating that a specific Internet address cannot be found [because it does not exist anymore...]

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The English version of Amaral's book, "The Truth of the Lie", may be published, soon, in UK

After the sentence of the Portuguese Supreme Court that acquitted Gonçalo Amaral and overruled a previous sentence, from a lower level court, banning the sales of the book in Portugal, several British publishers showed interest in printing a English version of “The Truth of the Lie”, for sale in UK and contacted several Portuguese lawyers, in order to have more details about the sentence, sources from the Portuguese legal area told MMDB (Madeleine McCann Disappearance Blog). 
We asked Gonçalo Amaral if he had received any contact from any British publisher about a possible publication of “The truth of the Lie” in UK, but he refused to comment. According to our sources, the fact that the sentence of Portuguese Supreme Court quoted the European Convention of Human Rights [which the European Court of Human Rights is in charge of upholding] and made references about rulings of that Court, in cases of conflict between privacy rights and Freedom of Expression, may have been some kind of turning point for those publishers, who see it as a “green light” to go on with a UK edition of “The Truth of the Lie”. 
The Portuguese Supreme Court, in its ruling, decided hat there was no defamatory content in Amaral's book, just a factual description of the first 5 months of investigation into Maddie's disappearance, with most facts having been already made public, through the Portuguese Media. Gonçalo Amaral was just exercising his legitimate, legal and fundamental right to Freedom of Expression, as stated in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Portuguese Supreme Court considered.

Those British publishers expect to be taken to court by the McCann, if they go on with the publication but, as one of them mentioned to a Portuguese lawyer, they consider they have another strong defense argument, to add to the sentence of Portuguese Supreme Court: the so-called “Spycatcher Case”, when the British government tried to stop the publication of the memories of Peter Wright, a former M.I.5 agent. The book was published in Australia but the British Government banned it in England. However, “Spycatcher” was on sale on Scotland, as British courts had no jurisdiction there. 
The Government also issued “gag orders” to all British newspapers, to avoid the publication of reports, reviews or excerpts of the book. At the time, the prestigious “The Economist” run a blank page with a boxed explanation: 
In all but one country, our readers have on this page a review of 'Spycatcher,' a book by an ex-M.I.5-man, Peter Wright. The exception is Britain, where the book, and comment on it, have been banned. For our 420,000 readers there, this page is blank – and the law is an ass.”

The book was cleared for legitimate sale on 1988, when the Law Lords acknowledged that overseas publication meant it contained no secrets, according to Wikipedia. But Wright was barred from receiving royalties from the sale of the book in the United Kingdom. In November 1991, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British government had breached the European Convention of Human Rights in gagging its own newspapers.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

“Sky News says nooooo”

One of my preferred sketches of “Little Britain” is the one where a bank client gets some information about a new offer, that included a overdraft of 10 thousand pounds and free travel insurance. “Sounds great”, says the client to the bank clerk, accepting the offer. The bank clerk types in the keyboard, two or three times, looks at the screen and than, with a blank expression in the face, tells the client: “Computer says noooo...”
The same happened with me, in my attempt to get two video-clips of two newscasts from Sky News.
On May 28th I sent a email to the “Sky News Library Sales”, asking them authorization to reproduce two videos that are not available in Internet (and also to get copies of the video-clips) of two newscasts from Andrew Wilson and Martin Brunt, on September 11th and 12th, 2007.
I had a quick answer, next day, from Mr. Matt Reynolds, explaining me that the right to reproduce those videos, for one year, in my blog, would cost me 750 pounds. I send them a detailed indication about the hour and day of the newscasts I was searching for, on June 1st.
In the first newscast, Andrew Wilson said, on September 11th 2007, in front of the Portimão Court building: “Today, the Spanish police sent the files of the investigation of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to the magistrate in charge of the case.”
The second newscast was broadcast at 4:00 am of September 12th, 2007, and it was the public confession of Mr. Martin Brunt that his “breaking story” about “Portuguese police” having already the results of the analysis made by Forensic Science Service that showed “three 100% matches of Madeleine McCann DNA”, one of them in a sample taken from the boot of the Renault Scenic, “was burnt out…”
On September 8th, Sky News they sent me the logs of those two clips, to confirm if it was what I wanted. I said no, they were completely wrong, that content did not matched with what I watched on Sky News.
On that same day, Mr. Bill (?), from Sky News and Sport Library Sales, sent me this message:
Yes, I’m sure that your recollection of what you viewed on Sky News is correct but unfortunately we do not have a recording of those moments that you are looking for as at that time we did not keep all 24 hours of our output every day. All we have from those days is what is in the logs we sent unfortunately.”
So, “Little Britain” at its best: “Sky News says nooooo...”

A very, very interesting reading, from a blog of Ben Salmon

Gerry’s records I: Gonçalo Amaral proven right?
"I’m undecided on whether to make this a series, or just a one off blog. As many will be aware I have itemised the entirety of Gerald McCann’s Portuguese call records, as provided by Vodafone in December 2007, to the best extent of my abilities/resources. In the process of doing so I have come across many names, some known, some unknown and some whose relevance I have yet to quantify. The following calls I will present are very much names we know; and perhaps more importantly, are calls which the PJ did not know about at the time (...)"

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Another probably emotionally unbalanced McCann supporter banging her head against a wall?

The McCann Portuguese lawyers, according to Clarence Mitchell, lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that both the ruling of Portuguese Supreme Court that overthrew the initial decision to ban the book of GA [and froze hiss assets and ordered him to pay 430 thousand pounds of compensation to Madeleine's parents] and the ruling [of the same Supreme Court] that rejected an appeal of the McCann, against that sentence, were a violation of their fundamental Human Rights.

I don't believe that Mr. Carlos Abreu and Rogério Alves are working on this case. They have a brain, they are brilliant lawyers and they are stable persons, from a emotional and psychological point of view. So, who remains as a possible lawyer, in this Case? Mrs. Isabel Duarte, who showed, in the past, with some strange attitudes of persecution of GA, out of courts and far beyond her lawyer duties, that she needed some help and advise from experts. In 2010, for example, on her final allegations of an appeal about an injunction related with the McCann case and GA book, she called defense lawyers “'vultures and vampires”...

It's curious that, the two rulings of Portuguese Supreme Court, acquitting GA and refusing to accept an appeal against that sentence [thanks to Pamalan blog], both quote the European Convention on Human Rights and jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights, in similar cases, related with the right to freedom of expression being considered, by someone, to be defamatory or reason for causing damages and asking for a compensation. Some specific information on ECHR about this subject:

1 - Art. 10 on ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) – Freedom of expression

    Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.”

It's also curious that jurisprudence established in previous rulings of ECHR, about the confrontation between Freedom of Expression and other rights, goes completely against the McCann:

Handyside v United Kingdom (5493/72) was a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights in 1976. Its conclusion contains the famous phrase that 'Freedom of applicable not only to 'information' or 'ideas' that are favorably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population" (Para. 49 of the judgment).”

Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer (1987) is a book written by Peter Wright, former MI5 officer and Assistant Director, and co-author Paul Greengrass. It was published first in Australia. Its allegations proved scandalous on publication, but more so because the British Government attempted to ban it, ensuring its profit and notoriety.[1]

The UK government attempted to halt the book's Australian publication. Malcolm Turnbull, later Prime Minister of Australia, represented the publisher that defeated the British government's suppression orders against Spycatcher in Australia in September 1987, and again on appeal in June 1988. The legal costs to the British Government was estimated at £250,000.[4]

Eventually, in 1988, the book was cleared for legitimate sale when the Law Lords acknowledged that overseas publication meant it contained no secrets.[3] However, Wright was barred from receiving royalties from the sale of the book in the United Kingdom. In November 1991, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British government had breached the European Convention of Human Rights in gagging its own newspapers.[8][9]

The book has sold more than two million copies.[3] In 1995, Wright died a millionaire from proceeds of his book.[10]

So, it looks like the McCann and Mrs. Isabel Duarte are shooting not their own feet, but their heads, close range, using a double barrel shotgun, with the barrels cut short...

Monday, 24 September 2018

A group of what seems to be mentally handicapped people trying to act as British journalists

Quotes from stories published, in the last few days, byDaily Mail”, “The Sun”, “The Irish Mirror”, “Daily Star” and “Daily Express”, signed by Charlotte Dean, Nick Pisa, Charlie Moore, James Murray, Jerry Lawton and Alan Selby – the group of people that seems to be mentally handicapped, trying to act as journalists, as I mention in the tittle of this post:

(...) Public fund to find Madeleine McCann could be WIPED OUT if Kate and Gerry are forced to pay £750,000 to detective who claimed they covered up her death in upcoming court case (…) Parents Kate and Gerry are fighting to avoid paying £750,000 to the ex-detective who shamefully claimed they were responsible for her death (..) Figures show that there is £728,508 left in the pot used to fund the search for Madeleine, which is mostly made up of public donations (…) That could all go if the decision to award Amaral £430,000 is upheld - with the McCann paying costs on top (…) The McCann won a libel case against Amaral in 2015 and he was ordered to pay them 250,000 euros (£209,000) each in damages. But this was overturned on appeal and that decision upheld in another court this April, meaning Amaral is now able to sue the McCann for damages potentially totaling tens of thousands of pounds (…) They were initially awarded £430,000 in libel damages. To prevent this, Kate and Gerry, both 49, have lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights. They now wait for the date of their Strasbourg showdown with Amaral to be confirmed (…) If Madeleine’s parents lose this challenge they face a double legal whammy as Mr Amaral has signaled his intention to sue them for damages to his reputation, potentially putting at risk some of the £746,152 in the McCann’s Maddie Fund (…) The couple have now gone to the European Court of Human Rights to try to get the ruling [of Portuguese Supreme Court] overturned (…) If they lose the case the pair will be forced to pay Gonçalo Amaral £750,000, after he made a bid to sue them for compensation (…) So far no money has been paid by either party and now they will square up to each other at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (…) The legal battle between Kate and Gerry McCann and former Portuguese police chief Gonçalo Amaral may end with a face-to-face confrontation at the European Court of Human Rights (…) They now wait for the date of their Strasbourg showdown with Amaral to be confirmed (…)”

Why do I admit the possibility that Charlotte Dean, Nick Pisa, Charlie Moore, James Murray, Jerry Lawton and Alan Selby can be mentally handicapped people trying to act as journalists:

1 – According to them, the Fund for the search of Madeleine McCann could be wiped out if or because:
a) The McCann “are forced to pay £750,000”, to Gonçalo Amaral, just like that, with no specific reason mentioned;
b) “If the decision to award Amaral £430,000 is upheld” (What decision? From what court?);
c) Because “Amaral is now able to sue the McCann for damages”;
d) “If they [the McCann] lose the case” lodged with the European Court of Human Rights;
e) “As Mr Amaral has signaled his intention to sue them [the McCann] for damages”;
f) Because Amaral “made a bid to sue them for compensation”;

So, there is already a “decision to award Amaral £430,000”, decision that could be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, but there is no mention about what court passed that sentence, when and in what country it happened. It seems also that there is no court decision at all, because Amaral only is “now able to sue the McCann for damages”, has only “signaled his intention to sue them” and only “made a bid to sue them for compensation” - no reference at all about Amaral having already sued the McCann for damages. So, Amaral has not filed any case against the McCann, according these newspapers? The McCann will have to pay damages to Mr. Amaral only if “they lose the case (…) lodged with the European Court of Human Rights”?

That group of people that seems to be mentally handicapped, trying to act as journalists, also wrote about what is coming, in a near future:

a) Amaral and the McCann “will square up to each other at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg “;
b) (…) The legal battle between Kate and Gerry McCann and (...) Gonçalo Amaral may end with a face-to-face confrontation at the European Court of Human Rights”;
c) They [the McCann] now wait for the date of their Strasbourg showdown with Amaral to be confirmed (…)”;

It's difficult to be more ignorant about the European Court of Human Rights. Probably, because that group of what seems to be mentally handicapped people, trying to act as journalists, doesn't know what is a computer and don't even imagine what is Google.

The European Court of Human Rights is a supranational or international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights. The court hears applications alleging that a contracting State has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols. An application can be lodged by an individual, a group of individuals, or one or more of the other contracting states. The Convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states are contracting parties to the Convention.” (Wikipédia)

This means that:

a) Any person who feels his or her rights have been violated under the European Convention on Human Rights, by a State member, can take a case to the Court ;
b) Any individual can lodge a complain, but only against a State Member, never against another individual, group of individuals, institution, corporation or company;
c) A State member can lodge a case against another State member;
c) A case will not be considered admissible where an applicant has not suffered a "significant disadvantage”;
d) A case may be inadmissible when “there is a lapse of six months from the last internal decision [taken by institutions of a State Member] complained of”;
e) The European Court of Human Rights has no power to overthrow any decision of a domestic court from a State member, only to issue sentences to order that State to pay compensation for the damage the plaintiff/plaintiffs may have sustained, due to a decision - or lack of it - from a court or from the Judicial system of a State member, and also pay for legal expenses incurred in domestic courts and with the European Court of Human Rights, in bringing the case;
f) Even after the case is addmited, by a rapporteur judge, a Chamber of the Court can still rule that the application is inadmissible;

Now, a final question: why do British newspapers hire what seems to be mentally handicapped people, pretending and/or accepting they can work as journalists?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Gonçalo Amaral: “Daily Mail” story is “completely false”

"The news published by the Daily Mail and other British newspapers about an alleged lawsuit I have brought against the McCann is completely false. I did not file any lawsuit or demand any compensation from the McCann", Gonçalo Amaral told us, today, after questioned about a story published by that tabloid, saying that the McCann may have to pay him 750,000 pounds for compensation because of a complaint filed by him, wiping out the Fund for the search of Maddie.

"The case reported by the 'Daily Mail' concerns a complaint filled by the McCann themselves with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Portuguese State. If that court decides any compensation must be paid, it can only be payed to them, by the Portuguese State, for failures of the Portuguese Justice system. If they lose the case, they will never, under any circumstances, have to pay any compensation to anyone”, said the former investigator of Polícia Judiciária.

Gonçalo Amaral also told us that "in the next few days" he will file a formal complaint against the Daily Mail and other British newspapers, which printed the same story, with the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), a self-regulatory entity of the British Press.

"The McCann Fund never paid me anything, just paid - and a lot – to private lawyers and detectives to investigate me and file complaints against me, which is a utilization of that Fund that I don't see is compatible with its legally defined purpose - the search for Madeleine McCann", said Gonçalo Amaral.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The deafening silence of Sky News

On May 28th I sent a email to the “Sky News Library Sales”, asking them authorization to reproduce two videos hat are not available in Internet, of two newscast from Martin Brunt and Andrew Wilson, on September 11th 2007.
I had a quick answer, next day, from Mr. Matt Reynolds, explaining me that the right to reproduce those videos, for one year, in my blog, would cost me 750 pounds. I send them a detailed indication about the newscasts I was searching for, on June 1st.

In the first newscast, Andrew Wilson said, on September 11th 2007, in front of the Portimão Court building, that “Today, the Spanish police sent the files of the investigation of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to the magistrate in charge of the case.”
The second newscast was broadcasted at 4:00 am of September 12th 2007, and it was the public confession of Mr. Martin Brunt that his “breaking story” about “Portuguese police” having already the results of the analysis made by Forensic Science Service that showed “three 100% matches of Madelene McCann DNA”, one of them in a sample taken from the boot of the Renault Scenic, “was burnt out…”

Until now, I had no reply from Mr. Matt Reynolds or anyone from “Sky News Library Sales”. I send two more email, the two last days, asking them for news about my request. No answer, until now.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Another fake story about Maddie and kidnap attempts of children in Portugal

The National Enquirer”, which is not exactly a trustable publication, claims that Scotland Yard has solved the case of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, in it’s edition of June 21st. The site of the newspaper is blank, at the moment I write this post. The story was quoted, also on June 21st, by a Australian publication (“New Idea”): “Scotland Yard has identified a 'person of significance' in the 11-year-old mystery. According to the publication, law enforcement have travelled to Bolivia to track down the suspected culprit (...) On June 15, police traveled to the tiny town of Kamen Bryag, Bulgaria, to track down a suspect, who the Enquirer alleges has been 'hiding since the kidnap occurred."

The National Enquirer” also has a detail about Portugal that is completely false, according to PJ’s Public Relations Department: “Police sources also told the Enquirer that since the young girls' disappearance, Portugal police have reported over 30 incidents similar to that of Madeleine's. These reportedly include attempted kidnapping and 'near misses' when culprits attempted to enter hotel windows.” There are no registered cases as those mentioned, in PJ records. But, as we, Portuguese journalists, say, with a obvious ironical meaning, “never let the truth spoil a good story”…

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

A story almost forgotten: “F*** the McCann”…

On January 13th., 2010, Gonçalo Amaral went to a court session about the appeal he has made, against the decision of a lower court that ordered him to pay Kate and Gerry McCanns half a million euros, in libel damages and banned the sale of his book. The parents of Madeleine McCanns argued that Mr. Amaral, in the book “The Truth of the Lie”, accused them of faking their daughter's abduction. On February 2017, the Portuguese Supreme Court, on a final decision, revoked the order to pay the damages and kept a earlier decision to quash the ban on the sale of the book.
When that court session finished and Mr. Amaral went out, a reporter from BBC East Midlands asked him a question.
The former police chief replied, in Portuguese, “Fala com os McCanns” (“Talk whit the McCanns). Mike O’Sullivan, the journalist, went on air, reporting that Mr. Amaral said “F*** the McCanns”, and reproduced his answer with a “beep”, instead of the first word.

The BC journalist, in his report, said that his cameraman and his sound technician both confirmed they hear clearly the word “F***”. No other British journalist heard that word. Mr. Martin Brunt, who was there and wrote a couple of posts in his blog “ALife of Crime” insulting all Portuguese journalists, likecalling “colhões” (“balls”) to the stories published byPortuguese Press about Maddie’s disappearance, came out defending Mr. Amaral.

My New Best Friend was the tittle of his post, on January 15th. “Spare a thought for my new best friend Goncalo Amaral. I’m beginning to think the former detective in the Madeleine McCanns case has a point when he complains about the British media attacking him. My Beeb colleague accused him of saying “F*** the McCanns” in an alleged off-guard moment when we all followed him out of court the other day”, he wrote.
Martin Brunt finished the post with a ironical comment: “What he actually said was “Fala com McCanns” which means “Ask the McCanns”. The rest of us, through our interpreters, understood perfectly what he was saying. I think he needs a good libel lawyer. Isabel Duarte may be free when she has finished pursuing him over his book on the Madeleine case.”

The "Daily Star", on January 15th, was the only newspaper to print the truth (something not very common, on that newspaper) and they wrote that "BBC bosses sparked a row after accusing Goncalo Amaral of a four-letter tirade against Kate and Gerry McCanns. They insisted the ex-detective said: “F*** the McCanns,” when asked by a BBC reporter if he felt his allegations were hurting the couple. But last night it was claimed he said: 'Fala com McCanns,' which means: 'Speak to the McCanns".
The recording was so clear that, as the "Daily Star" refers, "rival TV companies refused to broadcast the footage after their translators studied it. But it was broadcast, with the key word bleeped out, by the BBC in the East Midlands."

British newspapers took the BBC fake story as granted and made headlines with it. Tom Wells and Antonella Lazzeri wrote, in “The Sun”: Vile cop: F*** the McCanns”, on January 14th. “THE ex-cop who led the Madeleine McCanns probe sparked new outrage last night after launching a four-letter tirade against the missing child's parents. Brazen Goncalo Amaral spat, "F*** the McCanns" when asked by a BBC TV reporter if he felt his wild claims about their daughter were hurting them (…) Amaral, axed after leading the abortive early investigation into Maddie's disappearance in 2007, flipped before entering a court in Portugal's capital, Lisbon.”

Martin Fricker, on “The Mirror” had a story with this tittle: “Disgraced Portuguese detective in four letter outburst at Kate and Gerry McCanns”. Referring that Mr. Amaral was questioned by another reporter, Martin Fricker wrote: “Disgraced detective Goncalo Amaral yesterday let rip at Kate and Gerry McCanns with a foul-mouthed outburst. The former policeman was asked if his book about their daughter Madeleine was hurting the couple when he barked: “No, f*** the McCanns.” Amaral then laughed as he walked off, despite being caught on camera insulting a couple who have suffered so much anguish in recent years (…) reporter Mike O’Sullivan said: “I was astonished, and so was my cameraman, that a former senior police officer could use a term like that against the McCanns. It really was crude.” A family friend of Kate and Gerry, of Rothley, Leics, added: “It’s disgraceful and gives a true measure of the man".

Also in “The Mirror”, a piece of garbage named Tony Parsons, a crude racist and xenophobic, insulted everybody, as it was his habit, every time he wrote about Portugal and the Portuguese police:” Maddy McCanns cop adds insults to injury”, was the tittle of his column. “If, as has been suggested in Portugal, there was a “media circus” around the disappearance of Madeleine McCanns, then it is the Portuguese police who are the clowns. Cruel, stupid, spiteful clowns (..) The Portuguese police were shown up as a bunch of clueless amateurs by the Madeleine case, and – shamed, embarrassed, infuriated – they turned their rage on the McCanns (…) Even now, the Portuguese cops treat Kate and Gerry McCanns with a grotesque lack of respect. Asked if he cared that he had hurt the McCanns, Goncalo Amaral told a BBC reporter: “No, f*** the McCanns.” A class act, that fat copper, who has sought to make money out of a stolen child – and the endless grief of her parents."

BBC took almost one year to react and never apologized to Mr. Amaral. Only after dozens of complaints from viewers the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) analyzed the case and had a soft conclusion, excusing the reporter: “The reporter's belief, reinforced by others on the program team who viewed the recording, was that Sr Amaral had indeed used an English phrase which included an offensive term applied to the McCanns. On further examination, however, it became clear that Sr Amaral had been speaking Portuguese, and that an inoffensive phrase had been misconstrued."
The decision taken was that, "in future, the team plans to use interpreters if clips from interviews are unclear"...

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Some personal stories of my life as a journalist (and more than that) and a request

In Portuguese, we have two words to mean a different kind of feeling related with fear: “receio” and "medo". The firts word is a bit more strong that “preoccupation”, in English, but does not mean that a person if afraid of something (have “medo”). I may have someting more than preoccupation (“receio”) about the future of my job, if I know that the newspaper where I work is in a bad financial situation. But I will be afraid (have "medo"), if I know that there is already a list of 10/15 journalist that will be fired in a short period of time.  I couldn’t find the precise word to reproduce that “nuance”, in English, about the difference between “receio” and “preoccupation”. “Receio” is more than “preoccupation”, but it´s not “fear”. Talking about fear, I always have in my mind a popular say, common in the small and poor country village where my father was born and I heard him mention several times: “Those who die of fear, are buried in s**t”.

I am afraid of only three things: a slow and painful death, due to a sickness like cancer; a long, mentally incapacitating illness like Parkinson or Alzheimer; and taxes, another of the very few certainties in life, as Mark Twain allegedly said (Benjamin Franklin was the first to refer those two things as unavoidable). Many years ago, I decided – and it’s a decision I will never change – that in the two first situations I mention, I will chose the moment when I will go. I will not wait for the “Grim Reaper” to take me and it does not matter that euthanasia is not authorized in Portugal. About taxes, well, the only way to escape paying it, is death…

Through my career as a journalist, I had a few occasions when I was threatened, two of them quite serious. I was not exactly preoccupied with those threats, but a little bit more than that, I had some “receio”, as I explained in the beginning of this post. The first time I was threatened in a serious way – and my family was also included –  was in Macau, when Rocha Vieira was Governor (he finished his mandate, in 1999, embroiled in a scandal of a money transfer, while still Governor, to a private foundation in Lisbon to be presided by himself). General Rocha Vieira, a Portuguese Army Officer, was a man who had a extreme difficulty of getting along with some basic principles that are common, in Europe, since the 18th Century: Freedom of Opinion, Expression and, above all, Press Freedom. When he left Macau, in 1999, after nine years of intimidation and threats against critical Portuguese newspapers, there was a a sigh of relief from all Portuguese journalists that also welcomed warmly the first Governor appointed by Beijing, Mr. Edmund Ho, a statesman, a real gentleman and a good and sincere friend of the local Portuguese journalists and community.

Cartoon published by "Ou Mun", the biggest Chinese newspaper of Macau, about the scandal Governor Rocha Vieria was embroiled
Both men had a completely opposite attitude about news and Press Freedom. General Rocha Vieira just hated all of those that dare to criticize his Government and didn’t made any effort to disguise it. Mr. Edmund Ho was a so polite man that he never showed any attitude of disregard of hostility against any journalist or newspaper, didn’t matter how critical the newspaper was to his Government. It’s a irony that the now retired Lieutenant-General Rocha Vieira is a employee of a Chinese Sate owned company, “Three Gorges”, that bought EDP, the former state-owned electricity supplier in Portugal and appointed him as their official representative in the Administration Board of the company – a very rare show of trust in a a “gweilo” (“foreign devil”, a common and depreciative expression in Chinese to refer Western foreigners) from the the Chinese Government. As far as I know, it’s the first time from 1807 until now, that a top Portuguese Army Officer works for a foreign Government. During the “Napoleonic Wars”, several high ranking Portuguese Army officers were part of the invading army the French emperor sent, in that year, to occupy the country.

Since 1995, when I became editor of a small Portuguese daily newspaper in Macau, I quickly realized that a civilized relationship, at least, between the General’s Government and the newspaper “Gazeta Macaense”, was impossible. The “motto” of his Government about the Media, as one of this Press advisers told in a interview, was clear: “More than journalists, we need ‘militants’ of the national goals”. This reminded of that phrase of Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. When there is no legal, moral or ethical reason to justify the actions of a Government, there is the habit – not acceptable in Democratic countries – to mention the “Superior interest of the Nation”, a very common phrase of the 48 years of Salazar’s dictatorship that Portugal endured.

So, I became some kind of “Public Enemy nº 1” of the General and, within less than two years, he made a deal with the owner of the newspaper, Mr. José Manuel Rodrigues, a Macanese lawyer, actually chairman of the “Association of Macanese Communities”. He closed the newspaper, fired all journalists (the two of us that worked there) in a way that was a example of one of the most cowardly attitude (and lowest baseness of character) I ever met in my life: he gave orders to change the locks of the newspaper’s office so, when I went there, on a Sunday afternoon, to prepare next day edition, my key didn’t worked. I phoned him to tell that there was a problem with the lock and I had to call somebody to fix it. He told me he decided to close the newspaper, for “restructuring it” and we were all fired. Two months after this, he was one of the five members of the Legislative Assembly (the local mitigated version of a Parliament) appointed by the Governor.

José Manuel Rodrigues, former owner of "Gazeta Macaense" and chairman of the "Association of Macanese Communities"
From 1993 to 1997, my family in Macau (my wife, my brother and my sister-in-law, even my first ex-wife…) were harassed and indirectly threatened, in an attempt to make me change the editorial line of the newspaper, first, and after to try to get me out of Macau. Because, even working as a freelance journalist, I was a source of problems for the General. Judge Farinha Ribeiras was a public admirer (he said that, on a interview to TDM, Macau TV) of Mussolini, Franco and Salazar, who supported controversial extraditions of suspects from Macau to China, where they could be sentenced to death and, since 1993, was the Judge-President of Macau Supreme Court (“chosed” and appointed by the General). In 1994, he filled 38 complains in Court against me, as Editor of the newspaper, for defamation. I was not alone, as he took “Amnesty International” to court, complaining also of being defamed by the organization, in 1994.

Mr. Ribeiras said, on that interview, among many other foolish and brainless things, that “Italians still missed the times of Mussolini, because trains use to run on schedule”. We made a comment, on the newspaper and reminded him that it was not Mussolini’s “virtue” but a demand from the Nazis, that wanted the trains destined to Treblinka, Auschwitz and other death camps to arrive on time. Mr. Farinha Ribeiras made a formal request to the Court to arrest me until I went on trial, to avoid that I run away from Macau. It was a bad idea, as both the “Committee to Protect the Journalists” and “Amnesty International” decided to act, on my defense, with this second organization warning authorities of Macau that if was was arrested, in that context, they would include me in their list of  “Prisoners of Conscience”.

Portuguese President Mário Soares (2nd from right), a former political prisoner during Salazar regime and the Judge-President of Macau Supreme Court, Farinha Ribeiras (1st from right) a public admirer of Salazar, siting side by side during a presidential visit to Macau.
The “Committee to Protect the Journalists” invited me  - a great honor, no doubt - to write the preface of their 1995 edition of the “Index of Censorship”, a book about censorship, country by country, all over the world. As a freelance journalist, I got some internal documents, in 1995, from TDM, the local Government owned TV station, with instructions to the journalists to ignore the demonstrations of pro-Democracy groups on the June 4th anniversary of the Tiananmen events. I published those internal documents and reactions, even in Portuguese Press, in Lisbon, were strong. In 1997, I was a little bit tired of being almost jobless for the two previous years, as my stories as a freelance journalist found less and less space, to be published, in Macau. The 24 square miles of Macau were, indeed, a very small area for me and the General to share. So, I decided to go back to Portugal, where I got a job, two months after arriving.

The second time I was threatened (and also has some "receio", but not "medo") was between 2003 and 2004, when I published several stories, after many months of investigation, about the activities of a fundamentalist Muslim group, the Tablighi Jamaat – a group nobody heard about, in Portugal, until then, and no newspaper had ever made any mention of their existence in our country – but was banned in Russia, in 2009, for example. I managed to explain to the readers of the weekly “O Independente” (the second biggest one, in Portugal, at the time) not only that they were here, but also the dimension, the vast network they had, all over the country, the fact that they controlled the majority of Muslim associations and communities, including the most important one, the “Islamic Community of Lisbon” (“Comunidade Islâmica de Lisboa”).

They did it always behind the curtain, behaving in a way that you can say was more secret than discreet. No one never saw any of their leaders in the front row of any public ceremony or situation where non-Muslims or journalists were present. Troubles (for me) really start when I published a photo of their “operational” leader, Mr. Esmael Loonat, a man that, at the time, was already in the “radar” of the Counter-Terrorism Unit of Polícia Judiciária.
I endured months of threats, even against my family in Macau, in phone calls that, for example, mentioned details like the name of my seven years old son, living in Macau with his mother, the exact place where his school was and who used to take him to and from school. My reply to those phone calls was always very short and I can’t reproduce it here.

Mr. Esmael Loonat, the "operacional" leader of the Tablighi Jamat in Portugal, in 2004
A few months after, the Tablighi Jamaat made a turnover in their “public relations” policy and decided to introduce themselves to the Portuguese people, trough several interviews with newspapers an TV stations, as a very humble, peaceful and simple Muslim organization, that just followed a little bit more strict interpretation of Quran, in their daily lives. Even the “operational leader” gave interviews to Media and allowed them to do something completely forbidden, a sin for the Tabligy Jamaat: taking photos of himself. Just to give you an idea, no Tablighi Jamaat family has a TV set at home, as it is considered a “source of conspurcation of Muslim ideals and principles” – a quote from “Al-Madinah”, a monthly magazine of the group, in Portuguese. With this change of policy, all threats against me (that including two bomb threats against the newspaper) just vanished.

From 2008 until last year, I lived in Macau, working as a journalist and also as a freelance translator English/Portuguese, specialized in Law and Legal Affairs. I came back to Portugal in March 2017, after my 23 years marriage finished, in a peaceful way and with a decision for a divorce by mutual agreement. I had to start (and I’m still in the beginning of it…) almost from the zero, in my work as a journalist and translator. I went to Macau in 1996, came back to Portugal in 1997, returned to Macau in 2008. So, for the last nine years, I was absent from the journalistic field, in Portugal. Many of the colleagues that used to run side by side with me, chasing politicians, tape recorder in hand, asking questions, years ago, are now Editors at newspapers, TV stations and radios.

Traditional Media in Portugal, mainly newspapers, are in a uncomfortable situation: they have one foot on the left side (paper editions) of a deep canyon and the other on the right side (online editions), their “legs” stretching, painfully and dangerously, more and more. Paper editions and its advertisement, with a few exceptions, don’t produce enough revenue to pay salaries and production costs. Online editions have only a residual revenue, that barely covers costs – and this is because they “cannibalize” paper editions and have just five or six workers, most of them in charge of the technical management of the sites.

More than a dozen newspapers closed, in Portugal, in the last 10 years. Others have reduced staff, in some cases, firing more than one third of the journalist working there. They fill the gaps by hiring dozens of young people, just out of university, “giving” them a six-months internship, as trainees, usually not paid, with only a small subsidy for meals and a free travel pass for public transports. After the six months, they tell them “thank you”, say goodbye and hire another group of trainees. I had many contacts with old friends, journalists, and all told me the same: nobody is hiring journalist so “expensive” as I am, due to my experience and CV. Cheap or even free of costs trainees are the only option authorized by the management of newspapers.

This new beginning, for me, at 60 years old, has not been easy. Freelance journalist, nowadays, in Portugal is a euphemism for “unemployed”, as the market for this kind of work is almost inexistent and payment is very low. Translations from English to Portuguese have been my main source of income, to make ends meet. Things have became more difficult, after the initial divorce by mutual agreement changed to a litigious one, more expensive than usual, as I had to get a lawyer and the case proceedings must go, in very slow steps (and time is money, for lawyers…) through a complex legal channel, between two distant and different judicial systems – Macau and Portugal.

As I mentioned in the tittle of this post, it would be about a couple of stories of my life as a journalist and something more – a few details about my personal life. I also have a request to make and that is very difficult and embarrassing for me. As I think you noticed, in the top of the right side column of my blogs, I have a “Donate” button, from PayPal and also the IBAN of my bank account. I just want to say that any help, doesn’t matter how small it is, from my readers, who consider that I have been doing a reasonable journalistic work covering the case of Maddie’s disappearance, will be really very welcomed.