Portugal’s head of culture quits after uncultured threats

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The Portuguese government’s head of culture quit Friday after causing an outcry by threatening on social media to slap two newspaper critics.

Culture Minister Joao Soares said in a statement he didn’t want to create problems for the center-left Socialist government.

He also said he wasn’t prepared to give up his freedom of speech. “I won’t relinquish my right to express an opinion,” he said, after being publicly reprimanded by Prime Minister Antonio Costa for slapping threats on Facebook.

Soares responded on his Facebook page to two columnists in daily Publico, saying he would look for them and give them “a pair of salutary slaps” after they criticized the government’s culture policy. He said he was responding to an “insulting personal attack,” though he later said he didn’t intend to offend anyone and apologized.

Soares, who took office with the Socialist government last November, is the son of former Socialist prime minister and two-time president Mario Soares.

Costa said he had reminded members of his government they must be “reserved in the way they express their emotions” and said he didn’t want officials to use such abrasive language.

One of the newspaper critics complained that government spending on culture hadn’t been increased, that there was no clear policy for the sector, and that Soares had given government jobs to his supporters. Another accused Soares of being indiscreet and causing “public spectacles” with controversial decisions.

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