Court blocks Brazilian blogger’s bank account, orders her to pay damages to former president

The Electoral Justice Court of Amapá ordered on May 18 to block the bank account of a blogger sentenced to pay more than $900,000 in fines to former president and current federal senator José Sarney, informed Portal Terra.

Sarney sued the blogger, Alcinéa Cavalcante, for a post she wrote on her blog during the 2006 electoral campaign. She suggested making a sticker with the phrase "The vehicle that resembles me the most is the police wagon" and asked readers which politician should receive it.

A user said that it would be "the perfect sticker for Sarney." The next day, the politician filed a lawsuit against the blogger, demanded he’d be compensated for damages and asked for the page to be deleted, according to the website Canal Tech.

Alcinéa reported on the charges against her through her blog and, for each new post, she received another lawsuit. She appealed the first two, but there were 20 other lawsuits that eventually led to the fine. "I ended up missing the due date to appeal and I was judged in absence. I did not have the money to pay a lawyer," explained the journalist to Agência Estado.

The news stirred reactions from other bloggers in Brazil. Fábio Pannunzio, who was forced to take down his blog after an avalanche of lawsuits, repudiated Sarney's behavior. "Senator Jose Sarney, unblock Alcineia Cavalcante's account. It is an embarrassment that you act this way. Alcineia is a teacher, lives a modest life, she will never be able to pay the preposterous compensation that the court demands from her," said Pannunzio on his Facebook account.

The judicial process has become an effective method to stop media outlets, especially small ones, and silence criticism from journalists and bloggers in Brazil.



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.