A Spanish Civil War reporter, A Capital co-founder, ambassador and diplomate. Mário Neves career crosses many areas, being a notable name in Portuguese Journalism.
“I am the first Portuguese journalist entering in Badajoz after the city’s fall by the hand of the insurgents. I have seen such desolation and fear that they won’t disappear from my eyes soon enough.”
On the 15th of August, 1936 Mário Neves reveals to the world the “massacre of Badajoz”. The city had been taken by nationalists on the day before.
This Diário de Notícias reporter got to Badajoz through the Portuguese border of Caia, coming across “scenes of horror and desolation”.
Mário Neves, at the time a 24-year-old law student, testified the massacre perpetuated by Franco’s rebel forces.
On the next day’s edition, the dimension of the tragedy was even clearer:
“After, we went by the city moat, which is still filled with corpses. They are the ones who were shot this morning”.
On the 17th of August, his telephonic dispatch showed a more determined tone.
“I am leaving. I want to leave Badajoz, no matter what, as soon as possible, with a strong promise to my own conscience that I will never come back here”.
These words didn’t get to the pages of Diário de Lisboa. This chronicle was cut by the censorship.
This text only saw the light of day in 1963. The book El Mito de la Cruzada de Franco, by Herbert Southworth, made public the words that the Portuguese regime was trying to silence.
Portugal needed to wait until 1985, the year that Mário Neves published a book of his memories.
A Chacina de Badajoz “is a vent and is a relieve for about half a century of oppression of my conscience”, revealed the reporter.
The Badajoz Controversy
In the years after, the journalist saw himself involved in controversy about the truth of what happened in Badajoz, a debate that stands to this day.
In 1937, his texts were tendentiously used in a book by Geoffrey McNeill-Moss, who was trying to discredit the massacre.
Mário Neves replied through a letter to the Diário de Lisboa director, published on the 6th of December.
“My chronicles, to which I tried hard to give objectivity, are after all used for Major McNeill-Moss’ wrong interpretations,” he wrote.
The historical veracity would pull through.
He kept his promise of not coming back to Badajoz for 45 years.
Mário Neves returned to the city invited by a British television crew, due to a documentary about the Spanish civil war.
The Badajoz massacre coverage was his first great journalistic job, and immortalised his name in Portuguese reporting
Beginning in journalism
Mário Neves, born on the 18th of January, 1912, began his journey in Journalism in a morning newspaper.
With his father death, who also a journalist – Hermano Neves –, he started to work in O Século newspaper.
He arrived to Diário de Notícias in 1931, and he was in this paper’s newsroom until 1967. In 1958, he took office as the Assistant Director.
Mário Neves’ name appears frequently connected to another important episode of national history.
On the 10th of May 1958, the journalist was covering the presidential elections, in which the independent candidate Humberto Delgado was running.
In a press conference, the General was questioned about what posture he would be adopting about the Council President, António de Oliveira Salazar, if elected.
“Obviously, I will fire him”, the general replied. A soundbite that made history.
The authorship of that question is often attributed to Mário Neves, but other sources say that Lindorfe Pinto Basto, a Lisbon correspondent of the news agency France Presse, was the one questioning the independent candidate.
From reporter to manager, Mário Neves has also collaborated in the creation of many publications.
In May 1945, he started Ver e Crer magazine with José Ribeiro dos Santos.
This publication was inspired by the model of Reader’s Digest Select Editions, even though it was openly progressive.
More than two-decades after, on the 21th of February, 1968, the first number of A Capital (2nd series) is published.
This morning newspaper, whose publication had been interrupted in 1938, came back to life by the hand of Norberto Lopes, the director, and Mário Neves, the assistant director.
Before its first edition, the newspaper was already questioned by the regime; the crew was obliged to prove that the publication was about general information and did not have any specific political inclination.
“We are not communists, there is people from A Voz, there is people from Novidades, there is people from Diário de Lisboa, there is people from other newspapers…”, argued Mário Neves.
Marcello Caetano gave in and A Capital was published. The first battle has been won.
Mário Neves signed the first edition’s featured article. A work that was, at the time, inevitably conditioned by the blue pencil of censorship.
The opening number sold about one thousand copies. The “novelty effect” and the quality of the collaborators of this newspaper made success among the public.
The increase in sales allowed to hire more journalists and to modernise the equipment.
“We want to turn A Capital in a school of Journalism”, said Mário Neves.
At the turn of the new decade, the paper started to lose readers and advertising. The changes made casualties.
“Disappointed with the direction that things were going” Mário Neves leaves A Capital in 1971 and also retires from the profession.
Already after the 25th of April, the former reporter became the first Portugal ambassador in the Soviet Union, were he remained until 1977.
After returning to Portugal, he was the Emigration Secretary of the Estate in 1979, in the V Constitutional Government, of Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo.
In addition to his productive career in Journalism, he held many positions and worked in activities in other areas, including politics, economy and diplomacy.
He stood out as well for his work at the Portuguese Institute of Oncology and the Portuguese Industrial Association.
Ambassador, diplomate, founder, director and reporter. Mário Neves died on the 1st of January, 1999.