Spanish Civil War

The newsstands like trenches

The Spanish Civil war divided brothers of the same land in several factions. The press reported, according to their barricade, the development of the events. This conflict served also as an incubator for the following massification of the radio.



On July 18th, 1936, Diário de Lisboa reported the coup d’Etát done in Morocco, making reference to a “serious situation in Spain”. The uprising was representative of the country’s tension. On one side was the nationalist movement led by General Francisco Franco; on the other, Frente Popular, which defended the Republican Government and intended to eliminate the fascist influence in the country.


18th of July, 1936 o Diário de Lisboa, reporting coup d'Etát  before Spanish Civil War


Portuguese newspapers started to answer to the escalation of the conflict in the neighbor country by sending reporters. Norberto Lopes, editor-in-chief of Diário de Lisboa, was the first to leave to Spain, but a railway strike delayed his arrival in Madrid.

«The general railway strike that holds us is a conclusive symptom of the situation that doesn’t present itself entirely favorable to the Government”, the report wrote, in his first chronicle. The Portuguese journalist, born in 1900, started his career at O Século and developed his journalistic activity at the Diário de Lisboa newsroom.

At the train station, the reporter noticed the interest of the Spanish population in the Portuguese press. «Groups gather that avidly read Portuguese newspapers, since the Spanish ones only publish officious notes given by the Government and by Madrid’s military authorities», refers Diário de Lisboa, on July 20th of 1936.

In the first weeks of the war, national newspapers published second and third editions, with thousands of copies being read across borders.


In Spanish lands, the conflict in the battlefield started to influence the media. On July 25th of 1936, Seville’s edition of the ABC showed its support to Franco supporters, who fought for the “victoria de los que luchan por una España nueva”. [“for the victory of those who fight for a new Spain”]



. On July 25th of 1936, Seville’s edition of the ABC showed its support to Franco supporters, who fought for the “victoria de los que luchan por una España nueva”. [“for the victory of those who fight for a new Spain”]

On the other hand, Madrid’s edition of the newspaper exulted "¡Viva la República!”. The edition with republican tendencies, motivated by the new Government’s impositions in the newsroom and in the editorial criterion, surprised the readers who thought it was a sudden change in the newspaper’s historical monarchical orientation.

The Madrid ABC had been taken by the Republic forces.

From Ministério da Governação came the warning: the news team should abandon the building, since the Government wouldn’t be responsible for their lives. Alfonso Rodríguez Santamaría, ABC’s deputy director and president of Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid, was shot by the Milicias de la Prensa patrol.



The tone of conflicts between nationalists and republicans was rising in the streets and in newspapers. "¡No pasarán!" [“They shall not pass!”] was, until today, immortalized in Spain as a resistance motto.



Both sides of the barricade tried to control the information given to the public, noted Norberto Lopes. «If the censorship in Madrid is rigorous and only filters the news that convey to them to be disclosed abroad, the censorship of the rebels isn’t less tight and opposes mainly to the broadcast of the  news that might harm the military operation, which at a certain point is understandable”, he wrote on August 3rd, 1936. The Portuguese journalist was one of the founders, along with Mário Neves, of the evening newspaper A Capital, which he run until 1970. He passed in 1989, being considered one of the great names of the Portuguese journalism of the XX century.


Even in the initial phase of the conflict, Salazar already felt the importance of the war that started in Spain for the maintenance and prosperity of Estado Novo.


The good relationships between nationalist forces gave privileged access to information and bigger flexibility to Portuguese journalists, in comparison to the envoys from other countries. General Franco’s first interview after the 1936 coup was given to Diário de Lisboa. The interview had repercussions on a world level.

The exclusive was announced as: «Franco’s first historic message to the world opinion».


Throughout the war, other journalists succeeded in speaking to El Caudillo, sometimes resorting to the influence of António Ferro and the Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional.



Secretariado de Propaganda Nacional, under Ferro’s hand, and the Portuguese press, controlled by the censorship, contributed for Franco’s international defense campaign.

This way, the work of some of the dozens of journalists that went to Spanish territory assumed propaganda tones. «Our comrades […] are writing, in the fronts of the Spanish civil war, some of the most beautiful pages of the Portuguese journalism”, stated António Ferro on November 24th, 1936.

Portuguese radios Emissora Nacional and Rádio Clube Português (RCP) not only increased the emission’s power, but also created programs in Spanish. The voice of Marisabel de La Torre de Colomina, transmitted by Radio Clube Português, became a symbol of the Portuguese radios’ support to General Franco.



During Spain’s Civil War, Maj. Jorge Botelho Moniz installed an efficient information and propaganda service supporting the Nationalist cause which echoed in Portugal and in Spain. RCP was very important as a moralizing force, as it is example of the episode of Alcázar de Toledo, where Botelho Moniz himself exhaustively spoke to the besieged of Alcázar, motivating them and assuring that the troops sent to release them from the republican siege where coming.

Emissora Nacional, Estado Novo’s official radiophonic organ, called the attention of all Portuguese for the peril of the Spanish “rojo”, manifesting in favor of Franco’s forces, which defended the values of the «western Christian civilization”. Also Radio Luso, financed by the Nazis, and Invicta Rádio, connected to the regime, were aligned with the Franco movement, which they promoted in Lisbon and in Oporto.

The same orientation was shared by the Government’s nationalist magazines, such as Boletim da Legião Francesa, Defesa Nacional and Alma Nacional, that highlighted the conflict.



Mário Neves was one of the exemptions to the propagandistic attitude that spread across Portuguese media, by revealing the slaughter of the nationalist army in Badajoz. The journalist, born in 1912, inherited the passion for the job from his father, Hermano Neves. On August 17th he wrote: «I’m leaving. I want to leave Badajoz, no matter what, as soon as possible and with the strong promise to my conscience that I shall never return here». His chronicles were censored, with excerpts from his report about the horrors in Badajoz being excluded from the pages of Diário de Lisboa.



Through his career, Mário Neves also collaborated with O Século newspaper and founded, with Norberto Lopes, A Capital, in 1968. After the April 25th of 1974, he became the first ambassador of Portugal in the Soviet Union and, in 1979, integrated the V Constitutional Government. He passed in 1999, after a long and fruitful career.

Reporters from other national Portuguese media started to arrive in Spain. «Salamanca lives in full quietness», it is read on August 1st, 1936, in Diário da Manhã. Who reported it was the newly-arrived reporter José Costa Júnior, in his first dispatch. This calm in Salamanca was also noticed by the journalist Tomé Vieira in O Século.

«It is noted only some precaution measures and it is possible to read, in the faces, a constant anxiety (…) besides that, city life goes on quietly». The journalist reinforces that the city had slowly entered its normal routine, saying: «In the beautiful Plaza Mayor trucks go by, all the time, with boys from the patriotic youths, full of riffles, between clamorous “hurrays”».

Diário de Lisboa, that had sent the first reporter for the war stage in Spain, recognized now the competition. The newspaper decides to send a new journalist named Artur Portela.

In August 1st of 1936, he crossed the border and arrived in Spain. During the trip, the journalist wrote a testimony about the surrounding scenario: «In the road that, sometimes, goes parallel to the railroad, are seen, in vertiginous arrows, automobiles with armed people». But on the contrary to his colleagues and competitors, Artur Portela saw a much more troubled scenario according to what himself reported to Diário de Lisboa: «Sometimes gunshots are heard around Grande Hotel. (…) somebody shot from a roof or against an automobile, where Falangistas went and immediately the patrols spread through across the city stroke back with a strong shooting».

The war started to directly affect Portugal. In September of 1936, Diário de Notícias announced an uprising aboard two battleships, involving crew members that, allegedly, intended to join the “Spanish Marxist fleet”.



«Treason, high treason! The whole country claims for justice against those that, directly or indirectly, are involved in the strange case».



In April of 1937, German airplanes destroyed the emblematic Basque village of Guernica. The ABC of Madrid reported the attack. The newspaper’s Seville edition informed that Guernica had be “set on fire by los rojos”, echoing the Franquist official version. ABC from Madrid answered, quoting foreign correspondents: La felonía de los facciosos les lleva a asegurar que los leales han incendiado Guernica.” [“The felony of factious take them to assure that the loyal ones had burned down Guernica.”]



The world was shocked about the events in Spain. The Times advanced in first hand: “The reflection of the flames could be seen in the clouds of smoke above the mountains from 10 miles away”.



During war years, more than a thousand reporters covered the conflict. Five died, among which Ernest Sheepshanks, a Reuters correspondent, and Gerda Taro, considered the first feminine photojournalist in a war forefront. The English The Times and The Manchester Guardian published, between July 15th of 1938 and Abril 15th of 1939, more than 11 thousand news focused on the war. Reporters also arrived from the United States, standing out The New York Times that sent three permanent correspondents to cover the war. Among these was the writer Ernest Hemingway, who arrived in Spain in March of 1937 as a correspondent from the North American Newspaper Alliance. The Spanish Civil War was also immortalized in the country’s popular culture.




The song Madre anoche en las trincheras is already a part of the Spanish popular songbook. Legend says that the lyrics are based in a letter a soldier wrote to his mother, initially published in The New York Times Magazine.

Of the war’s artistic legacy is also part Guernica, a masterpiece by Picasso. The painter created the panel from the reports of the bombings that arrived in Paris, where he lived. The work was in exhibition in the International Exposition of Paris, in July of 9137.

Picasso stated: "No, la pintura no está hecha para decorar las habitaciones. Es un instrumento de guerra ofensivo y defensivo contra el enemigo”. [“No, the painting was not done to decorate rooms. It is na offensive and defensive war instrument against the enemy.”]



War and art also mix in the works of the photojournalists who witnessed the conflict. Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, by Robert Capra, became one of the most iconic images of the civil war.


The wounds opened by Guernica continued to spread across the nation in 1938. “Se ha rendido el jefe faccioso de Teruel con las fuerzas a sus órdenes y se han pasado a nuestras filas dos compañías de requetés navarros" [“the factious chief of Teruel has surrendered with the forces under his command and has two ranks of Navarro requetés have passed to our lines”], it was possible to read in the Madrid edition of the ABC newspaper, in an attempt to maintain the spirit of the population. Seville’s edition published contrasting news: “Nuetras victoriosas tropas siguen conquistando posiciones”. [“Our victorious troops continue to conquer positions.”]


Franco gained strength and isolated Catalonia from the rest of the country. In January of 1939, Barcelona was taken. “Razón y fuerza de la espada de Franco, Barcelona, liberada” [“Reanson and strength of Franco’s sword, Barcelona, freed.”], announced the ABC published in Seville.


A completely different story was told in Madrid’s edition. "Nuestros soldados luchan fuertemente, conteniendo a las fuerzas invasoras" [“Our brothers strongly fight, containing the invader forces.”], it was read in the newspaper. The newspaper of republican orientation refused to accept that Barcelona already belong to Franco supporters.


Similar words wrote the newspaper La Vanguardia on January 25th. "Las tropas españolas contienen con heroismo los intensísimos ataques de las divisiones italofacciosas." [The Spanish troops contain with heroism the highly intense attacks of the ‘italofacciosas’ divisions.”].  With the taking of Barcelona, the newspaper’s editorial policy changed.



In Portugal, the conquests of Franco continued to be followed: “When the victorious armies of Franco made to fall a rotten world of Marxists lies and entered Barcelona, it is possible to say that we were there with them, because in the international war that was fought, we occupied since the first hour the a trench that we’ve never abandoned», wrote Diário da Manhã on March 23rd of 1939.

In March, it was Madrid’s turn to surrender. By this time, Portuguese envoys in Spain were counted by the dozens.


The end of Segunda República and the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship were near. The Madrid edition of the ABC of March 28th refers the appeal of the Conselho Nacional de Defesa to the Spanish, “en demanda de la serenidad que exige el momento” [“in the search for the serenity that moment demands”].


The editorial policy changes completely. Franco’s portrait occupied the newspaper’s front page. "ABC, en el momento de la liberación de Madrid, consigna el saludo más entusiasta para el valiente capitán y para el insigne estadista que está haciendo la España nueva", the ABC wrote. [“ABC, in the moment of liberation of Madrid gives its most enthusiastic welcome to the brave capitan and distinguished statesman that is making the new Spain.”]


During franquism, ABC would come to support the regime, becoming one of the most sold newspapers in Spain.



With the end of the war, diplomatic relationships between Portugal and Spain continued to be coverage subject for national media, showing the nearness between the regimes of Salazar and Franco.



The ABC newspaper reflected the contrast: The Franco version –ABC Sevilla – had around 30 pages, many images and would constantly inaugurate more sections in the publication. In the first trimester of 1939, it registered a circulation of 130,000 copies.

Regarding the newspaper with republican orientation, it revealed a decrease in every front. The paper shortage registered in the Madrilène capital and the growing difficulty of acceding sources made the newspaper to be published with only 4 pages. In the cover, aiming to take better advantage of the space available, were written many news. In the last trimester of 1938, ABC Madrid’s circulation was of 8,000 copies.



Franco’s dictatorship would only end after the death of El Caudillo, in 1975. Spain started the transition to democracy.

More than 30 journalists and photographers were sent by Portuguese newspapers to the Spanish Civil War. All were sent to the rebel territory. Eleven journalists and two photographers were sent by Diário de Notícias. Five people were sent by the O Século newspaper. Seven correspondents, among which two photographers, were sent by Diário de Lisboa. Two journalists were sent by Diário da Manhãand two more by Comércio do Porto. Only one reporter was sent by Jornal de Notícias and another by O Primeiro de Janeiro.