Brazilian senator lobbies for police protection of humorist who received death threats over satire

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  • February 14, 2014

By Travis Knoll

Álvaro Dias, senator for the Social Democratic Party of Brazil (PSDB-PR), asked the Brazilian Senate on Feb. 10  to consider giving protection to Fábio Porchat, the director of Porta dos Fundos, due to various death threats made against the satirist Brazilian humor site, G1 reported on Feb. 11.

The threats appeared on the unofficial “Soldier Blog,” a support outlet for the Military Police.

Porta dos Fundos released a critical video titled Dura ("Tough" in English) last week mocking what some see as the stereotypical harassment carried out by the police in Rio de Janeiro. Porta dos Fondos was careful to emphasize that their video was targeted at corruption, not the entire police department. Porchat said that the main point of the video was to get laughs and start a discussion. “When we can shed light on a certain issue and get society to debate it, then humor has done its job,” he said.

The reaction to the blog has been swift. One person wrote in Soldier Blog that “what some see as a simple humorous video” has “insulted the entire police force,” a “professional corps [whose members] put their lives on the line.” The writer took particular offense at the video’s insinuation that the police traffic drugs and added that the journalist deserves “dire straits” so that he will learn the value of the police. G1 reported that the press agent for the channel has asked the Police to investigate the threat saying that “honest police” are not offended by satire. The Military Police has said that it respects freedom of expression. No legal  action is expected against the website.

Senator Dias nevertheless said that the police must take direct action to get to the bottom of the threats. He said it should not be difficult to investigate the threats and emphasized that doing nothing infringes upon fundamental rights. “It is imperative that we stop actions like this from happening in Brazil because it is an affront to freedom of speech and opinion, that is, a fundamental freedom of each and every citizen.”

The police controversy is not a first for Porta dos Fundos. In December, the channel drew controversy for its “Especial de Natal” (Christmas Special) video satirizing the virgin birth, the three kings, and the crucifixion. In January, the channel was sued for 1 million reais (around $410,000) for allegedly violating Brazil’s ban on religious defamation.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.