Judicial "ploy" could force Brazilian journalist to pay senator for moral damages

Brazilian journalist José Marcondes reported an alleged court ploy in Cuiabá, capital of the state of Mato Grosso, that accuses him of rebelliousness and sentences him to pay a fee for moral damages in two cases filed against him by senator Pedro Taques, reported the web site Mídia Jur, on Monday, April 9.

The journalist, known as Muvuca, said he was surprised by citation. On his website, the senator posted a clarification note which said that the first hearing happened on March 27 with out the presence of the journalist.

"Mr. José Marcondes, or Muvuca, reported in his articles illegal practices committed allegedly by the senator, for this reason there is a need to seek rectification. The senator said the journalist's accusations [...] were an attempt to generate instability in his leadership through false and distorted news," according to the story.

In addition to the lawsuit brought by the senator, the journalist also was accused by businessman Aldo Locatelli; both plaintiffs are angered by articles which accuses them of being involved in corruption known as "The Oil Mafia." Marcondes received threats and was fired from a radio program in which he worked as a political commentator after making the accusations.

Judicial persecution is an obstacle to freedom of expression in Brazil. International organizations warned about the risks of judicial harassment. The Inter-American Press Association expressed concern over the "judicial persecution" against journalists in Brazil. Deutsche Welle analyzed the freedom of press situation in Brazil, saying that those interested in obstructing information from the public find ways to do so through the judicial system.

Cases that occurred in March, 2012, confirm the international organizations' suspicions. A journalist was prohibited from criticizing the administration of the Mato Grosso governor, a blogger was forced to remove publications about a Brazilian councilman from her website, and a neighborhood publication in the city of Porto Alegre was forced to close due to an expensive compensation fee imposed upon it.