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Brazil's highest court takes stand against prior censorship
September 29, 2014Reporters Without Borders hails last week's ruling by the Federal Supreme Court overturning a ban on distribution of the latest issue of the leading national newsweekly Istoe, which a lower court had ordered at the request of Cid Gomes, governor of the northeastern state of Ceara.
Gomes requested the ban on 12 September, on the eve of the issues publication, after Istoes reporters asked him to comment on his being linked to a case of alleged corruption involving Brazils biggest company, the oil multinational Petrobras.
Accepting his claim that Istoe intended to libel him, judge Maria Marleide Queiroz issued an order the same day prohibiting the magazine from distributing the issue on pain of being fined 2.5 million dollars for every day it defied the ban.
Federal Supreme Court judge Luís Roberto Barroso overturned the order five days later, on 17 September, on the grounds that prior censorship of a publication was unconstitutional and that the governor could sue Istoe for damages after publication if he thought he had been libelled.
Istoe was able to resume distribution of the issue.
We welcome this ruling by the Supreme Federal Court, which has taken a firm stand against censorship, and we urge the authorities to prevent defamation laws being used as a method of prior censorship in the pursuit of political interests, said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
There is a greater tendency to resort to judicial harassment of news media and journalists in the run-up to elections, Soulier added.
Gomes claimed that the attempts to implicate him in the alleged Petrobras corruption case were part of a scheme by his political opponents to upset the outcome in Ceará state of next months general elections.
The Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association (ABRAJI) has set up a website to monitor lawsuits by candidates against news media and news websites. It has so far registered no fewer that 128 cases nationwide, more than three quarters of them targeting Google.
Brazil is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
For more information contact:
Reporters Without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
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