by Óscar Queirós
Censorship has always been a very strong conditioning factor in our culture. Take history and one soon realises that, from very early on, we have been subject to laws that limited freedom of expression. If we are to believe our historians, the gag arrived in Portugal through the hands of the Catholic Church – under the pontificate of Gregory XI – who, at the request of king Dom Fernando, instituted Episcopal censorship.
That was the lever that the Civil Power had been waiting for, and it started regulating opinions, especially written ones, soon afterwards. And the situation lasted until a short while ago, until the end of the regime that we named 'Estado Novo' [New State] and which used Censorship as one of its main pillars, instituting a strict control of the media. But it went further, as it exercised an abominable pressure over the opinion and thought of any one of us. Previous censorship of publications, systematic apprehension of many of them, detentions and imprisonment for those who dared to voice their thoughts; enormities that were so often “legitimated” by courts that, in its majority, operated as one of the repressive arms of those rogues.
Until the [Revolution of the] 25th of April  arrived, and the voices that had been silent for so long (at least since the time of Dom Fernando) exploded. Some say there were abuses. Opinions. A free voice, however foolish, is always better than the sight of a gagged man. And legislation in that sense was issued.
“Tout est bien qui finit bien” [All is well that ends well], we thought, looking back (without nostalgia). You wish. It didn’t take long for us to see that stronger than the written and accepted Law, there was, for example, the tutorship of the English people that had been keeping us as workers on this farm of theirs, for centuries. Some of those bosses came here a while ago, allegedly on holidays. Two of them, a couple, brought three children along, and on a day of drinking – which is to say, a common day for them – only two of those three children were left. The other one, a little girl, disappeared while the parents and friends celebrated, maybe a trip to the supermarket (or any other futile motive that they like to solemnize) with more than ten bottles of wine, a few brandies and other stuff that makes one dizzy. It should be reminded that while this went on, the children were alone in a bedroom, far away from the surveillance of those who had the duty to care for them. But maybe that is only for us peasants that populate this English farm!
Well, moving on: the little girl disappeared, the parents, when they realised it (?) immediately called the televisions (from their own country) and afterwards the police. Years (and many complications) later we continue without knowing what happened to the poor little girl. I should stress that during the investigation, the English (in whose country tens of children disappear every month, and not all of them reappear) found themselves, at a given time, at risk of being, at least, accused of very gross neglect. And in order to prevent that (and possibly worse), they sent their own policemen over, an attitude that was agreed upon by our overseer (you know the name). The problem was that their policemen who came over to meddle in the case, arrived at the same conclusion as our own experts. And as that could not be permitted – even because the little girl’s parents are friends with Her Majesty’s “premier” – they were sent back home, while around here, the peasant who coordinated the investigation was fired. Then, a few more diligences and other trifles were performed (to distract the English and the Portuguese) until the process was shelved.
“The worst is for those who leave”, we use to say around here. Therefore, just accept the fatality, forget about the matter and get back to your drinks.
That was what the excellencies, our bosses, wanted, and therefore we should comply.
But the Portuguese policeman who was forced to abandon the search under orders – it seems to me, directly issued from number 10 at Downing Street – refused to accept the (lack of) resolution for the case. And as being a policeman, he was forbidden to speak about the investigation, he decided to abandon his profession in order to be able to do so. And that was how, already a free man, Gonçalo Amaral wrote down the testimony of what had been discovered through thousands of diligences, many of which were performed outside of the boundaries of this farm that we inhabit.
In the shape of a book, the testimony of what was contained in the inquiry – and only that, without any opinions – was sold by the thousands. Because the vast majority of the peasants that we are, cannot sleep in peace without finding out what happened to the poor little girl. But her parents did not appreciate the “caprice”. And in order to prove that they are still in charge, they asked a Portuguese court to gag Gonçalo Amaral. And while it was at it, it should do what used to be done during those infamous times: it should apprehend the books that were still left.
The court complied. And thus we found out that the thing that is called freedom of expression or the right to an opinion, included in our Constitution as fundamental rights, stop being such, when the interests of two subjects of queen Elizabeth II are so much more fundamental.
We can make a fuss but I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore, because those that we elected to legislate and to ensure our freedom, upon finding out about the very strange and inacceptable decision of the Lisbon court, decided it was best to remain silent…
And those who remain silent, consent!
This decision had at least one merit: it made clear that we continue to be the English people’s farm.
in O Porto de Leixões, 04.01.2010