Tolentino de Nóbrega

Tolentino de Nóbrega premiered in journalism in the 70’s, consolidating his career in Público. Nonconformist, he faced the regional power and fought for the profession for the freedom of expression and information

On the 7th of April, 2015, Público wrote in its online edition: “Tolentino de Nóbrega, the journalist without fear, has died”.

Tolentino de Nóbrega, a journalist from Madeira Island, would be forever known as the journalist that faced Alberto João Jardim’s government, despite the attempts to silence the reporter.

Against all, Tolentino de Nóbrega persisted and maintained his courage in the name of the free and independent Journalism.

The first steps

José Tolentino Oliveira Nóbrega was born in Machico, in Madeira, on the 2nd of February, 1952.

He started his journalistic career as a collaborator in Comércio do Funchal in 1972. The weekly, printed in pink paper, distinguished as the best opposition newspaper against the Salazar regime in Madeira.

Between 1974 and 1993, he integrated the newsroom of Diário de Notícias do Funchal (being editor and coordinator of sections like Education and Culture).

Worked in several newspapers such as Expresso and the already extinct A Luta and O Jornal, but it was in Público, at the time of its foundation, where he consolidated his career.

Graduated from Escola Superior de Artes Plásticas da Madeira, Tolentino de Nóbrega, aside from his journalistic activity, also dedicated himself to arts.

Besides that, the journalist also had time to teach descriptive geometry lesson at Escola Secundária Francisco Franco.

The fight for freedom

Later, in 1989, he entered the Público newspaper’s boards as a correspondent in Madeira.

It would be here that Tolentino de Nóbrega would face the discriminations, threats and persecutions by Alberto João Jardim’s government.

These would be troubled times. The attempts to domesticate, frighten and silence the journalist quickly came.

Facing an almost unipersonal power of the Madeira’s ruler, Tolentino saw himself becoming target of several terrorist attacks of a self-proclaimed Frente de Libertação da Madeira (FLAMA)… but no only that.

Jornal da Madeira, kept by Alberto João Jardim, always referred to Tolentino as “tolo entino” in its cartoons, besides associating him as an agent of the continental “colonialism” that worked for the “Belmiro’s capitalist tabloid”.

Despite many from Madeira disagreed with the leader of PSD, these references in Jornal da Madeira affected, in a way, Madeira’s public opinion, that even condemned and censured the journalist.

On his hand, Tolentino retaliated through a delicate and constant militia at the Journalists’ Union, having been an alternate secretary of the General-Assembly Table (1983/84 and 85/86), vice-president of the General-Assembly (1996/97) and member of the General Council (2002/2012).

Even though Tolentino Nóbrega disturbed the regional power with his criticisms to Alberto João Jardim’s government, the journalist received several awards for his accuracy and professionalism.

In 1999, he won Prémio Gazeta, the biggest awards of Portuguese Journalism and in 2006 he was awarded by the President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio, with Ordem do Infante D. Henrique as a Commander.

“I’m not a critic of dr. Alberto João Jardim, I am a critic of all forms of authoritarianism and of all government modes that disrespect freedom, much particularly, the freedom of expression. Without a free press there isn’t a democracy. It there is, in a region of Portugal, pressure and coercions against journalists, restrictions for the access to information sources, there isn’t a full democracy, there is a democratic deficit. He has the legitimacy of an elected ruler, but Hitler was also elected…”, stated the reporter to Record newspaper, at the time of the reception of Prémio Gazeta.

A journalist without fear

Tolentino de Nóbrega would be considered, by many of this professional colleagues, a true hero of journalism, who faced big challenges against his freedom of expression a period post-25th of April, in which such constraint was unthinkable.

”Portugal lost this Tuesday one of its best journalists. The one that, after the 25th of April of 1974, had to battle the most, on daily basis, with the profession’s weapons, for the right and the freedom of expression and information. The political country and the public opinion have a debt to Tolentino de Nóbrega. Fair it would be if the President of the Republic honored him, on the next June 10th, with Ordem da Liberdade”.

José Pedro Castanheira

“Tolentino de Nóbrega has known, without a shadow of doubt, how to be an intransigent and soft defender of the freedom of expression in a time and in a region of our country where it was very hard to be it”.

Francisco Teixeira da Mota