From the backstage into the limelight - Media and justice relationships in contemporary Portugal
Centre for Social Studies University of Coimbra Coimbra, Portugal
Department of Sociology University of Minho Braga, Portugal
The increasing mediatisation of the courts and the justice system in the late 90s of the XXth century in Portugal has carried several tensions between the justice system?s operators and the media?s professionals, particularly due to high-profile judicial cases. In this paper we will focus the probable conflicts between the Portuguese media and the justice system by exploring how both journalists and legal operators constitute what may be called ?interpretive communities? that produce shared discourses and collective interpretations of the contemporary interrelationships between the media and the justice system.
Drawing on data proceeding from a set of semi-structured interviews conducted with journalists, judges and public prosecutors, we discuss the ways by which cultural assumptions about the justice system in Portugal are co-constructed by legal and media professionals. The results obtained reveal that there are distinct perspectives and discursive practices, conditioned by local contingencies related to those social actors? professional positioning, status and self-evaluation of their roles in society.
In addition, the interactions and relationships between judges, public prosecutors and journalists are characterized by cumulative processes of negotiation, as well as by boundary work practices which may contribute to the preservation of a status quo that is reflected in the shaping of the public sphere. Insofar as most citizens? perspectives and knowledge of the justice system are bound to be conveyed by the media, these relationships can also produce repercussions in public representations of justice and citizenship.