Brazil’s courts have become a censorship tool for the powerful, Deutsche Welle says

In a study launched Monday, May 2, Freedom House classified Brazil as only “partially free” and placed it as the 90th in the world for press freedom and only 22nd (out of 35) in the Americas. What is helping drive this relatively low ranking is the use of the courts to harass journalists.

An analysis of the state of press freedom in Brazil by the German news site Deutsche Welle (DW) found that those who seek to prevent information from reaching the public are successfully using the courts to do so.

The site highlights court cases affecting journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto and O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. For reporting on corruption, illegal logging, and illegal wood sales, Pinto has faced more than 33 lawsuits. For its part, Estado has been censored by the courts via a two-year-old injunction blocking it from publishing any material related to a corruption investigation involving the son of former Brazilian President and current Senate President José Sarney.

In an interview with DW, the Reporters without Borders (RSF) Americas representative, Benoît Hervieu, said that it is difficult for many Brazilian media workers to express their opinions: “The insecurity issues are more serious in the North and Northeast. Journalists have confrontations with the authorities, as well as with organized crime and very violent wood traffickers.”

In spite of the negative evaluations from international organizations and the recent incidents against Brazilian journalists, Social Communications Minister Helena Chagas told DW that the country has complete press freedom and any can publish what they wish.

She attributes the legal persecution to problems with the judicial system: “This is not a press freedom problem. It is a issue with safety, with the Judiciary, a different type of malaise.”

Additionally, the longstanding concentration of media ownership in Brazil was identified as an obstacle to press freedom. “It should be a goal of the federal government to guarantee more pluralism in the media,” Hervieu added.

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.