Mayoral candidates across Brazil attempt to block publication of voter polls

By Isabela Fraga

Attempts to block the publication of voter polls were met with mixed results leading up to Brazil's municipal elections, reported the newspaper O Globo.

In Fortaleza, a judge embargoed the publication of a poll commissioned by the newspaper O Povo but the Regional Electoral Court (TRE in Portuguese) overturned the ruling. Meanwhile, in the southern city of Curitiba, the TRE accepted the request to suppress the results of a municipal election poll.

According to the newspaper O Povo, two candidates for the mayor of Fortaleza, Inácio de Arruda and Renato Roseno, requested the TRE block the publication of the surveys, arguing that they were not included in the scenarios for the second round of voting. The pollster, Datafolha, responded that their method has been used for 29 years and took into consideration the candidates who would be able to compete in the second round by the last survey, reported the newspaper Estado de São Paulo.

The injunctions that struck down the candidates' request to block the polls' publication came down on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 11. The polls were published the next day, Wednesday, Sept. 12, according to O Povo. The Brazilian municipal elections for mayor and city council members will take place on Oct. 7.

The plaintiffs had better luck in Curitiba. Mayoral candidate Gustavo Fruet's initial request was denied by the Electoral Court of Paraná but the politician successfully appealed the decision, blocking publication of the poll, also conducted by Datafolha, reported the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

The candidate argued that Datafolha did not provide information on who it surveyed for the poll, reported G1. According to the website Terra, the judge who accepted Fruet's appeal stated in his decision that the lack of data on the economic and educational background of those surveyed made it "impossible to check for any irregularities, compromising the integrity of the poll and, therefore, providing the grounds to not publish it."

The Brazilian National Association of Newspapers (ANJ in Portuguese) released a statement repudiating the Electoral Court's attempt to block the poll's publication in Fortaleza, saying that its actions "characterized the adoption of censorship." ANJ's opinion was also endorsed by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, which released a statement saying "prohibiting the publication of surveys [...] curtails the voters' right to information."

Fortaleza and Curitiba are not the only cases of suppressed voter polls in Brazil this election season. Federal police invaded the offices of a newspaper to block the publication of a survey in Campo Grande. In August, in the city of Londrina, Paraná, the TRE blocked the release of another voter poll conducted by Ibope, reported the newspaper Gazeta do Povo. On Sept. 4, Ibope stopped a survey it was conducting in the city of João Pessoa, Paraíba for alleged irregularities, reported G1.

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.