Court forbids Brazilian media group from identifying councilman involved in public funds scandal

A court in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has prohibited media outlets from the company Grupo RBS from publishing the name or image of a councilman, Adenir Mengue Webber from the city of Dom Pedro de Alcântara. If the outlets do not comply with the ruling, they could face a $600-a-day fine, according to Zero Hora, one of the media outlets subject to the court's decision.

The councilman is involved in a scandal involving public funds. In August 2010, Grupo RBS and the program Fantástico, of TV Globo, presented a series of reports denouncing the tourism trips council members from Rio Grande do Sul with state funds. The politicians justified the trips, saying they took training courses.

The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ in Portuguese) and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) condemned the ruling, calling it "prior censorship" that "violates the freedom of expression guaranteed by the federal constitution," ANJ said in a statement.

The increasing limits to freedom of expression are cause for concern, Abraji said, adding that a free press is critical for democracy. A recent report from Deutsche Welle about press freedom in Brazil suggested that the courts have become an instrument for censorship in the country.

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