In the news
Apart from different events taking place in different country, media coverage about these events also tends to differ a lot. The United Kingdom has its famous tabloids, Finland has its strictly impartial and factual way of reporting. Portugal is somewhat in the middle of all that. I bought a decent-looking newspaper today and asked people to help me read along or comment on the events.
The newspaper I am reading is called Journal de Noticias, counting 60 pages and two appendices: one for property and one for the cultural agenda. Sport, and more particularly football, occupies over 10 pages: endless statistics, forecasts and analyses included. Three pages are reserved for international news, starting at page 43 only. That is even after a short message explaining how a fisherman broke his leg while out on the sea. There is no specific section for European news.
`The major newspapers in Portugal are mostly considered impartial`
When I ask Pedro (25) about issues that have appeared in the news in the last few months, he starts by mentioning the Maddy Case. The English girl can still be found on the front page of most newspapers on a daily basis. The reports do concentrate on the investigation itself, not on the social drama behind it. It is not usual for newspapers to pay people for their personal stories, as is a quite common part of modern reporting in the United States or in Britain.
Pedro is getting tired of the coverage about the abduction, but many Portuguese perceive the solution of the case a matter of national importance. They are patiently waiting for the puzzle to be recomposed. Today`s step in solving the mystery is the new investigation leader who has visited the place of Maddy`s disappearance for the first time.
Terrorism and immigration
One item that does not seem to get much attention is international terrorism. It is neither very present in people`s way of thinking, nor has it led to changes in legislation. There have been discussions about wire tapping, but that was only after a high judge suspected that his phone conversations were intruded upon. That case is now under investigation. Some people are suspecting that every phone call can now be overheard by anybody, but the link with terrorism is virtually non-existent. Pedro explains that Portugal is a small and humble country, not very rich either, and it would not make a lot of sense for terrorists to attack it.
Immigration, often linked with terrorism, is not very substantial in Portugal. For many refugees from African countries, it makes more sense to flee to Spain. The routes towards Spain are shorter, both to the mainland (near Gibraltar) or to the islands: the Portuguese Azores are much further away from Africa than the Spanish Canary Islands. On top of that, Spain is perceived as a richer country with more opportunities for immigrants to build up a new life. Most foreigners in Portuguese are either originating from the former Portuguese colonies, or from Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.
The Eastern European immigrants often see their professional opportunities limited to begging in the street, which is legally allowed in Portugal. It even seems to be a quite popular way of earning money. Busy shopping streets are aligned with a wide scale of different people, ranging from semi-professional musicians to people showing limbs that have been eaten away by parasites.
Monica (22, photo), who is helping me read the newspaper, tells me that the major newspapers in Portugal are considered impartial. Politicians who have tried to influence reporting often fell victim to the newpapers` glasnost approach: rather than keeping certain facts away from the audience, they ended up being reported in the very same newspaper for attempting to hide the facts.
Unlike the press, politicians are generally held in high esteem. Mr Barosso, the current president of the EU, is accused of having left his own country behind in a mess after failing to complete his term as national president. He has not been linked with any corruption scandals, which in Portugal is an exception rather than the rule. One case that is currently under investigation even links a number of high officials to a pedophile case. Young kids from orphanages are said to have been driven around to important politicians` home addresses, returning to the orphanage with fancy clothes and new toys. The secrecy surrounding the case, and the suspicion that laws have been passed to protect those involved from prosecution, has obviously done further harm to the overall trust in politicians.
The market for petrol has only been liberalized a few years ago. Inflating fuel prices have been causing a lot of concern for car-loving Portugal. It has been yet another reason for Portuguese people to apply for increased credits in order to lead a normal life. SMS-loans ? a very popular trend in Sweden and Estonia ? have not made it to Portugal yet. But just like many other countries, Portugal has created itself a huge financial burden by overconsuming credits.
Last but not least, the huge amount of old people, combined with declining birth rates, is another problem that will claim its toll in years to come. The younger generation will have difficulties paying for the older generation`s pensions, and they risk ending up poor when their own careers come to an end. Fortunately, the family is always there with a helping hand. But whether the current family values will survive the further modernisation and individualization of the Portuguese society remains to be seen.
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