Brazilian Congressional website faces a marathon of court hearings after releasing public officials' salaries

On Jan. 27, a a marathon of hearings started for the Brazilian news website Congresso em Foco following the publication of a series of reports detailing salaries paid to politicians, judges and civil servants above the constitutional limit, the website reported.

Filed by the Union of Legislative Public Servants (Sindilegis in Portuguese), 43 officials whose names were listed by the website as receiving salaries above the legal limit presented identical lawsuits for moral damages against the website. Reporters for Congresso em Foco will have to appear with their lawyers at dozens of back-to-back--and sometimes simultaneous--identical hearings.

The union's strategy, seen in "bad faith" by the Order of Attorneys of Brazil, is designed to intimidate and increase costs for Congresso em Foco, and make it impossible to present evidence in all the cases, due to the huge quantity of cases being heard in different locations, according to several news organizations.

The case is one more example of the risk, pointed out by several international organizations, of how the judicial system has become a tool for censorship and limiting freedom of the press.

The website published the names of the public servants with salaries above the constitutional limit after interviewing five lawyers, including Fábio Konder Comparato and Ophir Cavalcante, the current president of the Order of Attorneys of Brazil, who felt the information was in the public's interest.