Last Sunday, September 28, 2008, a group of men, some of them armed, bought 30,000 copies of the daily newspaper Extra newspaper – a popular publication belonging to the powerful Globo group – in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro state, in southeastern Brazil in order to stop the newspaper from reaching the public.
The newspaper's front page carried a story entitled, "Campaigning members of Assembly lie in order to safeguard salary of R$ 13,000." Thirteen thousand reais are equivalent to US$ 6,722. The men went to the paper's distribution center in Belford Roxo and bought the Sunday paper copies before they could be distributed.
The article alleged that members of Rio's Assembly, who are candidates in upcoming municipal elections in Brazil, scheduled for October 5, have been absent from their assembly work in Rio de Janeiro and have fabricated other commitments as reasons for their absences in order to avoid having their salaries reduced.
The assemblymen mentioned in the Extra story, Marcelo Simão (from the PHS party), Alessandro Calazans (PMN) and Rodrigo Neves (PT), are running for mayor of São João de Meriti's, Nilópolis (both in the Baixada Fluminense) and Niterói (in the metropolitan area of Rio), respectively.
According to the newspaper, the three candidates lied to Rio's Legislative Assembly in order not to have a discount in their salaries for having been absent from work while they were campaigning.
In a note, all of those denounced by the newspaper condemned the en-masse purchase of the paper and assured that they don't have any connection to the action of the gang that was allegedly led by a fire department colonel. The fire department brass says they have started an investigation to identify the military man.
The president of Brazil's Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) Carlos Ayres Britto, condemned the groups who prevented the sale of the newspaper. He stated that it is the duty of the electoral Justice to react against this kind of action.Â
"The Public Prosecutor's Office is aware of what's happening and measures will be taken. We will find out exactly what happened, said Brito, adding: "All of these episodes bring an element of disturbance to the electoral process. We cannot cover the sun with a sieve. And we'll always react, because this is our duty."
He didn't say, however, what the TSE might do.
ABRAJI, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, has published a statement outlining its opinion that the buying of the copies of Extra newspaper constitutes a threat to freedom of
expression and democracy in Brazil. The organization called on the
Brazilian authorities to investigate the incident.