Judicial censorship of journalists and bloggers on the rise in Brazil as municipal elections approach

Judicial censorship of newspapers and blogs is on the rise leading up to municipal elections in Brazil. On Monday, Sept. 3, journalist Fernando Conceição claimed that a mayoral candidate tried to censor him in the city of Salvador, according to the website Polícia e Política.

Politician and businessman Mário de Mello Kertész went to the court demanding the reporter's blog be taken down after Conceição published a series of articles in the newspaper A Tarde accusing the candidate of embezzling $200 million during his term as mayor, reported the website Uol. Conceição was told to comply with the demand but an injunction filed on Tuesday, Sept. 4, suspended the court order, the journalist said on his website.

The website Jornal Oeste was also targeted by the Election Court, prohibited from publishing material about the elections in Cáceres, in the interior of the state of Mato Grosso, for allegedly favoring one of the mayoral candidates, reported Gazeta Digital on Monday, Sept. 3.

Last Saturday, Sept. 1, blogger Tarso Cabral Violin claimed on his website that the mayor of Curitiba, Luciano Ducci, tried to censor him by filing a lawsuit against the blogger demanding nearly $49,000 in fines, reported Terra. "This fine is simply a 'death sentence' for the Tarso Blog, the blog is a hobby that doesn't generate any profit, it exists as a popular check on public administration and a forum to discuss politics and law," Violin wrote on his blog.

In another recent event that the National Association of Newspapers called an example of illegal censorship, federal police invaded the offices of the newspaper Correio do Estado in Mato Grosso do Sul. An electoral judge ordered an embargo of the Aug. 30 edition of the newspaper because it would have released the findings of a voter poll.

Judicial harassment of journalists, ruthless during election season, is becoming a threat to press freedom in Brazil. International organizations have warned about the risks of judicial censorship. In a 2011 report, the Inter American Press Association expressed its concern over judicial censorship of journalists. An analysis from the German website Deutsche Welle on the state of press freedom in Brazil found that the powerful see the courts as a censorship tool.

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.