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Brazilian Courts Keep Meddling with the Press and Censoring It

On the eve of the second round of Brazil’s general elections on October 29, the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about recent judicial rulings curbing press coverage of the campaign.

On October 19, the federal Superior Electoral Court (TSE) fined CBN radio for "electoral propaganda" and ordered it to censor its website.

On October 25, the Regional Electoral Court (TRE) in the southern state of Paraná banned the media from reporting on a police raid at the request of a gubernatorial candidate.

"These judicial decisions reflect a very strange idea of the role of the press, which is obviously supposed to be a forum for political debate but which also entitled to take a position," Reporters Without Borders said.

"By banning all propaganda during election campaigns, the electoral law seems to be out of tune with media coverage of politics."

The organization added: "A media’s editorial position often entails a preference for a particular candidate, but the TSE’s ruling exaggeratedly assumes that every reader or listener will follow it. This attributes much more power to the press than it in fact has. As for the ruling issued by the Paraná TRE at the request of gubernatorial candidate Osmar Dias, it does not really serve his electoral interests. Does he think he will be protected by preventive censorship? This kind of censorship belongs to the past."

The TSE fined CBN US$ 10,000 on October 19 after one of its commentators, Arnaldo Jabor, expressed an opinion that was deemed overly favorable to opposition presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin.

Acting in response to a complaint by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s reelection campaign, the TSE also ordered CBN to withdraw the comment from its website, ruling that it had violated an electoral law ban on all propaganda during the election campaign (which officially began on July 1st).

In response to Dias’ complaint, the Paraná TRE fined the Hora H News website on 25 October for publishing information about the seizure by the police of a trunk full of banknotes from a hotel in the state capital of Curitiba two days earlier. Judge Renato Lopes de Paiva ruled that the report was liable to "prejudice" Dias, who is tipped by the polls to lose.

Citing "judicial confidentiality," the judge rounded off his ruling with a ban on all media coverage of the police raid. Journalists’ unions have contested the ruling, claiming that it violates the federal constitutional right of access to information.

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