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Brazilian Justice Can’t Tell News Reporting from Propaganda

Brazilian newspaper Agosto A Brazilian court fined the newspaper Agosto, on June 5, US$ 13,400 for publishing summaries of São Paulo mayoral candidates for the upcoming elections as well as an interview with one of the candidates, the first in a series.

An electoral judge issued a provisional decision ordering the seizure of all copies of the newspaper and its removal from the Internet. The newspaper's director, as well as the NGO which publishes it and the candidate who gave the interview, were all fined a similar amount.

Agosto is published by the NGO Amarribo, a partner of Article 19 which promotes civil society participation in public matters and transparency in local government in Ribeirão Bonito, in the interior of São Paulo.

This is not an isolated case. Two major media outlets in Brazil, the weekly magazine Veja and daily Folha de S. Paulo, were recently fined for publishing interviews with Marta Suplicy, a candidate for mayor of São Paulo. The candidate was also fined.

Another national newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, received a complaint for interviewing the incumbent mayor in São Paulo. Local newspapers in the interior of the country have faced similar restrictions.

These cases are based on Brazilian electoral legislation, which forbids any "electoral propaganda" before 6 July 2008, when the campaign period officially starts, as well as a resolution by the Superior Electoral Court, according to which "pre-candidates can participate in interviews, debates and meetings before 6 July 2008, as long as they do not express any campaign proposals."

Article 19, a UK-based freedom of information organization, released a note calling on Brazilian electoral judges to stop imposing sanctions for reporting on the municipal elections scheduled for October 2008.

In a series of recent decisions, electoral judges have punished print media outlets for publishing interviews with candidates for the October elections. These decisions violate the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution and in international law.

"The press plays a vital role in informing the public about elections, making sure that citizens understand the position of candidates and parties. Prohibiting the publication of interviews with political candidates undermines the ability of the public to make informed electoral choices, damaging democracy as a whole", said Dr. Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of Article 19.

Article 19 says that it believes that interviews with politicians which aim at informing the public should not be considered electoral propaganda, particularly if they are presented in a balanced and informative way which assists citizens to make informed electoral choices.

Such reporting should be considered core political speech, which is central to the conduct of free and fair elections. The notion of electoral propaganda should be restricted to material which specifically aims to convince the public to vote for a particular candidate.

These decisions have generated strong criticism in Brazil. The Movement for a Democratic Public Prosecutor's Office issued a public note stating that "newspapers and magazines can and should interview people, be they candidates or not, during any period of time, before, during and after the elections.

"In doing so they contribute to strengthening citizenship and bringing life to the fundamental right to information." In recent declarations to the Brazilian press, the presidents of the Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court have both supported the right of the press to inform the public without undue restriction.

Article 19 – www.article19.org

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  • Show Comments (14)

  • FORREST ALLEN BROWN

    next the bolstead act
    you know the one that started proabition in the US for 10 years

    so do the politicans have to stop drinking with eac h other after work !!!!!!!!

    what do the beer and hard liquer makers aand sellers say about this law it is money out of there pockets .

    less taxes ,

    of corse the up side less women getting drunk and poping out unwanted babies

    and i guess you guys will have to work harder trying out a virgin

  • João da Silva

    Forrest
    [quote]they will have to make the futbal fields int lock ups [/quote]

    Thanks for showing your solidarity with us, though you are a teetotaler, Forrest. It is a coincidence that you made this comment. Because, I was telling my wife this afternoon that during the Oktoberfest in our state (in October), all the pavilions would be turned into lock ups!!

    I think that Squid went “One Law too far” 🙂

  • FORREST ALLEN BROWN

    so look here
    if you go to a palapa have a few with friends at any beach bar or club

    the police can get a pay rate just by the bribe system

    and the ones above the law are emuine to it any way

    they will have to make the futbal fields int lock ups

    like coulimba did in the 90 for new years drunks

  • Gringo

    Introducing new unenforceable laws while not enforcing older more practical laws does seem par for course here.

  • João da Silva

    Gringo
    [quote]Come now, do you really think that zero tolerance will work? Can you imagine the police pulling over 80 million people a night? Another law with no teeth, until they want to bite SOMEONE specifically. Keep your nose down, and you’ll be fine Joao… Rock the boat, and they’ll find something to make your life miserable. TIB This is Brazil.[/quote]

    Gringo, it aint going to work. Take it from me. I was watching on the TV tonight several “Idiots and Junkies” who claimed to be authorities on this “issue” defending the “law”. The worst thing is that who signed this “law” is Squid, who was seen consuming a vast qnty of alcoholic beverages in “Arantes” in the southern part of our “Island”. Larry Rohter of NYtimes had his reasons;-)

  • Gringo

    Joao
    Come now, do you really think that zero tolerance will work? Can you imagine the police pulling over 80 million people a night? Another law with no teeth, until they want to bite SOMEONE specifically. Keep your nose down, and you’ll be fine Joao… Rock the boat, and they’ll find something to make your life miserable. TIB This is Brazil.

  • João da Silva

    Gringo
    [quote]And the award for most interesting and apropos brazzil.com new-comer goes to COLIN BRAYTON……
    [/quote]

    By any chance, Colin Brayton a cunhado of yours?

    You sit tight and and enjoy Bohemia at home.You are forbidden to drive until further notice 😉

  • Gringo

    Colin
    And the award for most interesting and apropos brazzil.com new-comer goes to COLIN BRAYTON……

    applause, applause…

    My only complaint is that you forgot “Toto” after the “we’re not in Kansas anymore” line. Other than that, a flawless first post. 10 for style and 10 for technique.

  • Colin Brayton

    We Are Not in Kansas Anymore
    I agree, one of the most peculiar things about life in Brazil is watching the judiciary try to discipline and regulate electoral politics.

    The notion that ZÀƒ© Fulano telling a reporter he might run for mayor constitutes “premature electioneering” simply does not compute for someone raised in the States, for example.

    And the amazing thing is that all of these tight controls from the elections tribunal are completely ineffective at curbing the kind of behavior they have in mind: “Vote Quimby and I will hire your kids to pave your street on the public dime” kinds of things.

    My brother-in-law, who has a sitio in a small municipality near SÀƒ£o Paulo, calls it “churrasco do prefeito”: “Free beer and ribs for everyone! Vote Quimby!”

    If you know your history, it reminds you a bit of New York in the old Tammany Hall days. But equally surprising, I find, is how frequently the courts have to order newspapers and magazines to afford the right of reply to persons accused of wrongdoing, or cease and desist from publishing accusations without granting the right of reply.

    This just boggles my mind. You accuse ZÀƒ© Fulano of eating barbecued infants, do not let him deny it in print, and the scream “censorship” when the judge agrees with him in the libel suit (ten years after it was filed, after everyone has forgotten about the whole thing.)

    Technically, I guess, the canons of Brazilian journalistic ethics, such as they are, call for providing the right of reply.in such cases. But how often do you see it granted?

    We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

  • ch.c.

    of course……
    …..and the da Silva family members can be counted by the millions !
    May be the source of the Brazilian problems lie at the first member.
    A virus that has been transmitted grom generation to generation.

    😉 😀 😉

  • João da Silva

    [quote]Looks like every Brazilian has 2 half brains….but not connected one to the other !!!!

    I suppose this is due to excessive EGO ! [/quote]

    Oh, you are talking about my brothers-in-law . Did you get to meet them while you were visiting Brazil? 🙂 😀 😉 🙁

  • ch.c.

    or said otherwise……
    Brazil is a Banana Republic disguised in a democracy !

    In Brazil there are 2 laws :

    – One saying something (whatever)
    – Another saying the opposite

    Simple proof of how developed is the Brazilian (UN)common sense !

    Looks like every Brazilian has 2 half brains….but not connected one to the other !!!!

    I suppose this is due to excessive EGO !

  • forrest allen brown

    the lie becomes the truth
    the courts and justice systems have lied to every one and themselves for so long
    they can not tell the deffrences .

    so much for god and his rights
    man has taken over .

    THE RONG MAN

  • João da Silva

    Brazilian Justice Can’t Tell News Reporting from Propaganda
    What to do ? The Brasilian Justice is at least contesting about the inability of our press to distinguish between propaganda and news.They are correct in doing so.

    What about the law that went into effect on last Saturday? The Brasilians can not even have a can of cold beer on a Friday evening with their co-workers, without getting arrested by the police. What are their Highnesses in the Justice doing about it that violates our constitutional (and God given) rights? What is the press doing about it? Is OAB doing anything about this bloody law.

    The best thing to do is to stay at home and watch the Novelas 😥

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