Judicial offensive threatens Brazilian news website that covers Congress

After publishing a series of reports on government salaries in all three branches that exceed constitutional limits, the news site "Congresso em Foco" (Congress in Focus) became the target of a flood of legal charges from the public servants in the Brazilian Senate, reported the website on Oct. 31.

Filed by the Union of Legislative Public Servants (Sindilegis in Portuguese), 43 officials whose names were listed by the website as receiving salaries above the legal limit presented identical suits against the website. All those in the suit claim the report violated their privacy and requested over $530,000 ($937,000 BRL).

Read the lawsuit details here.

The Journalists Union of the Federal District and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji in Portuguese) criticized the "judicial censorship and said that Sindilegis' position was a clear affront to freedom of the press, according to Correio do Brasil

"Abraji is confident that Sindilegis' legal strategy will be considered in bad faith by the Federal District court and hopes that the decision does not fall on the side of opacity," the group said in a statement.

Abraji asserted that the public servants' suit is similar to another against the newspaper Folha de São Paulo in 2008, when the newspaper and its journalist Elvira Lobato were charged with over 100 individual cases from members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. The strategy was to overwhelm small courts with so many cases that it would be impossible to present evidence in all the cases.

International organizations have highlighted the threat of judicial censorship in Brazil. In a recent report, the Inter American Press Association voiced its concern over "judicial persecution" of journalists. An analysis on state of freedom of the press in Brazil from the German website Deutsche Welle alleged that powerful people that want to limit the publication of damaging information find a helpful tool in the legal system.

"Brazil saw its Public Information Access Law passed on Oct. 25. Acts like the senators have taken only contribute to the delaying of the establishment of a culture of transparency in the country," Abraji said.