Supreme Court decision maintains judicial censorship of Brazilian blog

decision by the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil (STF for its acronym in Portuguese) maintained the censorship of the blog of carioca journalist Marcelo Auler. Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes denied the continuation of a complaint filed by the journalist, who requested an injunction to suspend a sentence that prevents the publication of two of his reports.

Last year, Auler was forced to take down the stories "New Minister Eugenio Aragão fought against and was a victim of the leaks" (published on March 16, 2016) and "Open Letter to Minister Eugênio Aragão" (published on March 22, 2016), after a decision by Judge Nei Roberto de Barros Guimarães, of the 8th Special Civil Court of Paraná.

In response to a request from Federal Police investigator Erika Mialik Marena of Operation Lava Jato, Guimarães also ordered that the journalist be prevented from "divulging new material with content capable of being interpreted as offensive to the claimant." In the reports, Auler mentioned the investigator’s alleged involvement with leaking information of an operation investigating corruption.

In the text of the STF’s decision, Moraes writes that the prohibition of the distribution of the reports is not "prior censorship." The justice argued that censorship is prohibited only prior to the publication of content, but the court can later analyze what is published and suspend its disclosure.

Auler wrote on his blog that he will appeal the decision because he believes it contradicts the entire understanding of the Brazilian Supreme Court. The journalist says he will ask for a review and even bring the debate to other STF justices. According to him, action is necessary because it is not "a problem exclusive to the blog or its editor."

"This is a broader issue because it affects the right of society to be informed. Uncensored. Even more. This is a discussion that should alert journalists, writers, intellectuals, and the media themselves. Including the so-called great press. Basically, Moraes' understanding means the return of censorship. Judicial,” the journalist wrote.

Previously, Auler was prevented from publishing eight other reports originally posted between November 2015 and April 2016, which mentioned the performance of investigator Maurício Moscardi Grillo and criticized alleged illegal wiretapping and the high costs of a renovation of one of the Federal Police units. The decision was made by Judge Vanessa Bassani, also of a special court in Curitiba.

After two weeks, Bassani threw out Grillo’s suit and the journalist was able to republish the censored material. An address error was noted in the original request. Submissions previously taken down can now be accessed on the reporter’s blog.

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) stated that "it expresses solidarity with the reporter and demands that the judge, in a judgment of merit, or the appeal panel, give back to society the right to be informed.”

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.