Courts uphold prior censorship of Brazilian newspaper, which cannot report on political controversy since 2009

By Isabela Fraga

Judges from the Brazilian capital decided on Wednesday, May 22, to uphold an order to censor newspaper Estado de S. Paulo, which continues to be unable to publish news stories about a police operation that involved relatives of prominent politician José Sarney, reported the newspaper.

In 2009, Judge Dácio Vieira ruled in favor of businessman Fernando Sarney -- Senator José Sarney's son -- who asked to prevent the newspaper from reporting on the "Boi Barrica operation," in which he was being investigated. The judge said the proceedings of the case were to remain outside the public domain.

Various organizations publicly opposed the prior censorship of the newspaper. Paula Martins, director of Article 19 in South America, said the judges' decision was "absolutely disproportional" and "completely ignores the intrinsically public character of the topic being discussed: the possible acts of illegality and corruption."

The president of the Commission for Freedom of Press and Information of the Inter American Press Society, Claudio Paolillo, also said he lamented the fact. "It's incredible, at this point, that prior censorship continues to exist in Brazil due to the courts' decisions," Paolillo said to Estadão. The country's National Association of Newspapers also considered the decision "a big mistake."

Although freedom of expression is protected by the country's constitution, judicial tactics have proven to be an effective method to derail media outlets -- especially small ones -- and silence criticism from Brazilian journalists and bloggers. A timeline created by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas shows that, just in 2012, the country registered 16 cases of courts being used to censor journalists.


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.

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