Development & Aid, Europe, Headlines, Population

MEDIA-PORTUGAL: The New Voices of Immigrant Communities

Mario de Queiroz

LISBON, Feb 27 2004 (IPS) - A number of newspapers and magazines catering to immigrant communities in Portugal and published in Russian, Portuguese and Mandarin have relatively wide circulations and provide an important link to “home” for their readers.

In addition, they offer an opportunity for foreign journalists and editors to ply their trade.

An estimated 600,000 legal and undocumented immigrant workers currently reside in Portugal – one of the largest immigrant populations in the European Union (EU), in proportional terms, much higher than the proportion of immigrants living in Italy or Spain, and only comparable to the proportion in Germany, France and Luxembourg.

But the phenomenon is a new one for this southern European country of 10.2 million, which has long been a major source of emigrants.

In fact, there are some five million Portuguese living abroad, as a result of strong emigration flows, the largest of which occurred in the 1960s, during the 1933-1974 dictatorship and at the start of the independence wars in the former Portuguese colonies of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

The huge infrastructure funds that the EU has provided Portugal went largely into public works which drew thousands of immigrants. By the end of the first quarter of 2003, 450,000 foreign workers had residency permits issued by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

To that total were added 30,000 Brazilians whose situation was regularised under a bilateral accord signed in June, in the name of ”historic, linguistic and cultural ties between the two sister countries.”

Since the agreement went into effect, the Brazilian community has become the one with the largest number of legal immigrants: 100,000, followed by the 75,000 Ukrainians, and the 59,000 Cape Verdians.

The Angolan, Moldavian and Rumanian communities come next, with between 45,000 and 28,000 legal immigrants.

Although SEF does not release estimates on the number of undocumented immigrants, immigrant associations put the total at between 120,000 and 150,000, with the largest single group being made up of Ukrainians.

Publications produced by and targeting specific immigrant communities began to mushroom two and a half years ago, with the launch of the Russian language newspaper Slovo (Word). But the 16-page paper had to be printed in Moscow, due to the lack of machines using the Cyrillian alphabet.

Today, the 16,000 copies of the newspaper, which has now expanded to 40 pages, are produced entirely in Portugal. ”The paper kept growing along with the expansion of communities” from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), said the publication’s editor, Vitali Serebriakov.

Although Ukrainians and Moldavians are the main communities from central and eastern Europe, Serebriakov said that counting undocumented immigrants, ”there are around 400,000 immigrants from the ex-USSR.”

”Since the Russian language is the only thing our readers have in common, we have to meet everyone’s interests,” he added.

One advantage enjoyed by the publication is that everyone in the USSR had to learn Russian, which means the language is understood by the large Rumanian-speaking community of Moldavians, and by smaller communities like Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians. It is also easily accessible for Serbians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians and Macedonians.

But the most recent addition to the list of publications for immigrants is printed in Portuguese. The 32-page weekly Correio do Brasil, with a print run of 20,000, was launched this month. And although it targets Brazilian immigrants, the new publication’s editor, Paula Ribeiro, underlined that it is also designed for “anyone interested in Brazil.”

In fact, ”Most of those who purchase a copy are Portuguese,” said Ribeiro, a Brazilian journalist who has lived in Portugal for 17 years.

Correio do Brasil is published by the Lisbon weekly O Independente, which is also getting ready to put out another magazine, Africa. It will cater to communities from the Portuguese-speaking countries of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tomé and Príncipe, “as well as anyone interested in the African continent,” said the director of the project, Emídio Fernando.

”In the economy section, for example, our readers will want to know who is the owner of this or that company that invests in Africa,” he said.

And in sports, especially football, ”we want to report the results of the five Portuguese-language African nations, we will interview the most outstanding African player of the week in Portugal, and we will produce reports in which we talk to young players of African origin who look set to become the stars of the future,” added Fernando.

Portugal’s long presence in the Chinese enclave of Macau (1537-1999) is also reflected today in the 32-page newspaper Sino (Bell), which has a circulation of 25,000 and is printed in Mandarin, in tabloid format. Five years ago it consisted of merely a set of photocopies on letter size paper, distributed in supermarkets that sell Chinese products.

Its growth into a proper monthly publication was the result of financial support from Macau gambling magnate Stanley Ho, the owner in Portugal of the Casino do Estoril, Europe’s biggest casino.

Another reason for the growth of the paper was an agreement with a Chinese news agency, the result of decisive support from the Beijing diplomatic mission in Portugal.

Ling Zhan, the director of Sino, said his newspaper mainly focuses on ”what is happening in Portugal, Europe and China, with regular news coverage of business opportunities or offers of products.”

According to sociologist and researcher Catarina Reis de Oliveira, a specialist in China studies at the Nova University in Lisbon, the publication plays “a key role as a hub for ties among the Chinese community” in the country.

That community includes many of the 220,000 Chinese nationals with Portuguese passports who moved to Portugal after Macau was handed back to China on Dec. 19, 1999.

According to the High Commission on Immigration and Ethnic Minorities (ACIME), there are other immigrant publications besides Slovo and Correio do Brasil that could be considered important in a country where Jornal de Noticias, the daily newspaper with the largest circulation, sells 80,000 copies, and Público, the most influential paper, has a print run of 67,000.

The financing of Slovo and other newspapers targeting immigrants from the former USSR depends almost exclusively on ads placed by telecommunications and money transfer companies.

One of the publications that ACIME included on its list is Bereg (Coast), a 12-page fortnightly publication with a print run of 20,000, published in Russian and distributed free of charge with the aim of disseminating “useful information for immigrants on the political and social life of the Portuguese,” according to the publication’s editor, Andriji Saenko.

Imigrante (Immigrant) is another Russian weekly that puts out 10,000 copies in Portimao, a resort town in the extreme southern part of the country. It’s coverage focuses on “Portugal, at a political, economic and social level, using the internet as a source,” said Sergei Ronita, the Moldavian reporter who runs the paper.

The Russian-language Maiak Portugalii (Lighthouse of Portugal) also produces 10,000 copies, and “specialises in news on Ukraine and Moldavia, Portugal and the world,” says its director, Moldavian journalist Sergei Damián, who especially emphasised the publication’s sections on “beauty, humour and sex education.”

Among the publications with the largest circulations is Trojka Lusa, a bilingual Portuguese-Russian monthly magazine that consists of 40 full-colour pages and has a print run of 10,000.

The editor, Raisa Zolotco, told IPS that “efforts towards the integration of immigrants must include raising awareness of their cultures and their history, since it is difficult to understand and appreciate what we do not know.”

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