The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomes the court decision exonerating two experienced journalists over their reporting on a major judicial investigation into corruption as a vital legal victory for the freedom of the press in Portugal.

On February 28, 2023, Carlos Rodrigues Lima, a journalist with Visão, and Henrique Machado, a reporter at TVI and CNN, were both acquitted of the crime of violating the secrecy of justice in relation to their journalistic reporting in 2018.

Lima, who at the time worked for weekly news magazine Sábado, had been charged with three crimes of violating the secrecy of justice. Machado, who at the time was justice editor at Correio da Manhã, faced one similar charge.

The court case stemmed from their disclosure of information about an anti-corruption operation dubbed Operação Lex, which involved the arrest of prominent figures in the football and legal worlds, as well as the so-called “e-mole” case and emails involving Benfica football club. Information about the topics had been leaked to the media.

As part of a wider investigation ordered by the Lisbon public prosecutor, both journalists were surveilled and one had their bank details accessed by the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) during a two-month period between April and May 2018. The surveillance, aimed at identifying their sources, was carried out without a warrant from a judge. IPI denounced the serious violation of source confidentiality after it was first revealed in January 2021.

As part of that investigation, Lima and Machado were prosecuted for publishing allegedly secret details about a judicial investigation. Two other journalists who had their personal data accessed as part of the investigation into the leaks were not charged. In December 2021, both journalists were acquitted by an investigating judge. However, the Lisbon Court of Appeal reversed the decision, opening up a full trial.

In the verdict at the Central Criminal Court of Lisbon, the judge ruled that news reports published by the journalists had not harmed the judicial investigations and that the journalists had sought to perform their duties and inform citizens about a matter of public interest in a responsible manner. No appeal has been lodged.

“This judicial decision is an important legal victory for the freedom of the press in Portugal”, said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “The surveillance and subsequent criminal charges filed against Carlos Rodrigues Lima and Henrique Machado represented rare but serious threats to media freedom and source protection in Portugal.

“Our global network therefore welcomes the verdict, which clearly identified the public interest nature of their reporting, recognized the professional and responsible way in which they published the news, and correctly cited relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“However, we note with concern that the illegal surveillance carried out against the journalists in 2018 was never properly addressed and no one was held accountable. While press freedom in Portugal remains strong overall, it is vital that such flagrant violations against journalistic freedom are not repeated in the future.”

In 2021, Lima lodged a criminal complaint at the Lisbon Court of Appeal against the prosecutor who carried out the investigation which resulted in their prosecution. A decision on the case, which involves allegations of abuse of power, is pending.

A recent analysis of the press freedom landscape in Portugal published by IPI identified that while the country continues to have a strong legal framework for free and independent journalism, legal threats against journalists remain an area of concern.

At the time, the surveillance of the journalists was criticised by top EU officials.


This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.