“Where were you on April 25th?”
This was the question he asked his guests on the program Conversas Secretas, on SIC (1996-1998) and, above all, in a series of 16 interviews carried out for the Público newspaper, in 1999. This question, associated with his unmistakable voice, left marks in portuguese society and is still remembered today.
Armando Baptista-Bastos is, above all, a great communicator, endowed with a great ability to use the word and with a strong sense of social intervention. His life was dedicated to journalism and writing. He dedicated 23 years of his career to Diário Popular, but had the opportunity to work and write for numerous media outlets. The chronicle was his weapon, written in his own innovative and controversial style.
The training of a journalist
He was born in 1934, on February 27, in Bairro da Ajuda in Lisbon, the son of the chief typographer of the newspaper O Século, who instilled in him a taste for writing and journalism.
Writing comes early into your life. At the age of 14, he wrote for the children's section of O Diário Popular, already expressing his concern with social criticism. At the age of 19, he joined the great reference of national journalism, O Século, under the aegis of Acúrcio Pereira. It will be through the hands of this editor-in-chief that Baptista-Bastos has the opportunity to work in all sections of this newspaper, acquiring vast experience.
He was deputy editor-in-chief of O Século Ilustrado. It is here that an innovative and somewhat controversial style begins, with his column of film criticism and commentary.
The “Revolt of the See”
In 1959, he was part of the conspiracy against the Salazar Regime, which took place in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Lisbon. His participation in this failed coup by the “Revolta da Sé” put him under the watchful eye of the PIDE and earned him not only the dismissal of the newspaper O Século, but also his clandestinity.
It was during this period of his life that he met Fernando Lopes, starting to collaborate with the filmmaker on several projects, including the realization of dialogues for the film about the former boxing champion - Belarmino, one of the classics of Portuguese Cinema Novo.
It is in semi-clandestine that he writes O Secreto Adeus, his first book of fiction, which is actually a critique of Portuguese journalism at the time. It is also in these circumstances that he uses pseudonyms to work for RTP, writing texts for news and documentaries by Fernando Lopes and fellow filmmaker Baptista Rosa. A few months later, and even under the name of Manuel Trindade, the national information secretary fired Baptista-Bastos for considering him an “adversary of the regime”.
After being fired from RTP, he collaborated with Agence France Press and the newspaper República, but was quickly invited by actor Raúl Solnado to work as his secretary at TV Rio, in Brazil. When he arrives in Brazil, the coup d'état is taking place, leading to the deposition of the then President Goulart and leading to the beginning of the Brazilian military dictatorship. Baptista-Bastos covers the events and sends the information to the newspaper da República. Censorship prevents the publication of news.
The journalist with “unmistakable style”
When he returned to Lisbon, he was invited to join the editorial staff of the newspaper Diário Popular, in which, for the next 23 years, he had the opportunity to play important roles.
He will write reports, interviews and chronicles, on a wide range of topics, highlighting the Portuguese reality of the time, but also that of many other countries, always with his “unmistakable style”, in the words of Adelino Gomes, his friend.
His vast experience as a journalist was also reflected in his work As Palavras dos Outros, a publication that became a reference in the profession and recommended in the I Journalism Course organized by the Union of Journalists. Baptista-Bastos was, at the same time, a social critic and a critic of the profession itself: “I do not change the essential values of journalism that today are imposed on young journalists”.
Fernando Dacosta considers him “a mandatory reference in the profession”.
His signature in the media
Post-April 25, 1974, Baptista-Bastos began a new phase in his career that coincided with his departure from O Diário Popular. In a more precarious initial phase, he worked for the Europeu and, later, for O Diário. He also translates and writes for business people and politicians.
Over the following years, he worked for several newspapers and developed his career as a writer at the same time. Contributed to Almanaque, Seara Nova, Gazeta Musical, Todas as Artes, Época, Sábado, Jornal de Notícias, A Bola, Tempo Livre, Jornal de Letras, Artes e Ideias, Expresso, Jornal do Fundão and Correio do Minho. He established himself mainly as a chronicler and as a critic.
A milestone in his career was the founding of the weekly O Ponto in the 1980s, and he was among its founders. In this newspaper, he published an important set of 82 innovative and remarkable interviews, which were compiled in the work O Homem em Ponto (1984).
He was also a regular presence on radio and television. He read his chronicles on the radio, on Antena 1 and on Rádio Comercial. He was also the first commentator on TSF's “Chronicles of Scorn and Curse”.
It was with the invitation of Emídio Rangel that he presented the program “Conversas Secretas” on SIC between 1996 and 1998. In 2001 he moved to SIC Notícias, where he presented an interview program “Cara-a-Cara”. From his collaboration as a columnist for Público, came the invitation to organize a series of interviews, with the question of Baptista-Bastos that brought him to the media sphere: “Where were you on April 25th?”, later published on CD-ROM.
It was also through the hands of Herman José that the iconic phrase of Baptista-Bastos was immortalized. His interviews in “Conversas Secretas” were parodied by the comedian, imitating his guttural voice, to which Baptista-Bastos reacted with a good sense of humour.
On May 9, 2017, Baptista-Bastos died at the age of 83, leaving a recognized legacy as a writer and journalist.
As a writer, he left us chronicles, reports, cinematographic essays, interviews and novels. His literary works have earned him several awards, distinctions and honors, from the Feira do Livro Award (1966) to the Alberto Pimentel Award from the Clube Literário do Porto (2006).
His work as a journalist also earned distinctions, including the Best Journalist of the Year Award (1980 and 1983) or the National Reporting Award/Gazeta Award (1985).
The highlight of the Pantheon of the Immortals is the tribute that the NewsMuseum pays to Baptista-Bastos: the journalist, the writer, the man.