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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Brazil

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Brazil, February 1997, available at: [accessed 19 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Brazil's feisty press faced off with a hostile Congress. The lawmakers considered scores of bills that threaten to restrict the current atmosphere of unfettered press freedom that Brazil has fostered since the country's 21 years of military rule ended in 1985.

Brazil's 1988 constitution abolished all forms of censorship and does contain a broad provision similar to the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech and a free press. The current legislative obsession with press laws is due in part to a broad congressional effort to update laws still on the books that date to the military dictatorship. The 53 bills aimed at the press, however, represent a possible encroachment on press freedom in Brazil – and, in fact, comprise the most formidable legislative assault against the press in Latin America.

Many Brazilian journalists and media owners alike interpret the legislators' efforts to pass draconian press legislation as punitive, punishment for a press that has cultivated a tradition of aggressive investigative reporting, often exposing scandal and official corruption.

Protests from media companies and journalists did manage to derail two of the more draconian measures under consideration. One of the withdrawn bills, under consideration by the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Congress) included provisions that would have allowed judges to order jail time for journalists convicted of libel and defamation of character and permit fines on media companies of up to 20 percent of their annual revenues. The two controversial measures were dropped after protests from the press, but scores of other provisions that would give judges significant leeway in ruling on press cases remain under consideration.

Arnaldo Jabor, a commentator for TV Globo, the country's largest network, raised the ire of legislators in May when he characterized the congress as a " supermarket," where "a guy can arrive with a suitcase full of money" and buy votes in exchange for political favors. A few days after he made his remarks, congress moved to expedite some of the new press legislation.

"We will not accept this kind of treatment from the Brazilian press," declared Luis Eduardo Magalhaes, the president of the Chamber of Deputies. "We need a legal instrument that can repel those who attack us without proof, those who seek to denigrate us."

Brazil's regional press, like that of other Latin American countries, was more vulnerable to threats and attacks from local power brokers and criminals because of its isolation in provincial areas.

Overall, however, the Brazilian press continues in its role as society's watchdog, resolving problems that the political system cannot, reporting on issues ranging from banking scandals to the murder of street children.

March 28
Jose Ronaldo, Rede Globo, ATTACKED
Nelson de Brito, Rede Globo, ATTACKED
Alexandre Wendel, Rede Globo, ATTACKED

Rioting prisoners in the state of Goias took about 40 people hostage, including members of a camera crew from Rede Globo television who were accompanying state officials and judges on their inspection of the prison. Ronaldo, a reporter with Rede Globo; de Brito, a cameraman; and Wendel, de Brito's assistant, were held hostage for eight hours. During that time, inmates assaulted the journalists, and forced Ronaldo to hand over his cellular phone, watch and wallet.

April 17
Marisa Romeo, TV Liberal, HARASSED
Jonias Cardoso, TV Liberal, HARASSED
Raimundo Marinho, TV Liberal, HARASSED

Romeo, a reporter with the television station TV Liberal; Cardoso, a cameraman with the station; and Marinho, Cardoso's assistant, had their video material confiscated by police and were forced to leave the area after they had filmed a confrontation between the police and landless peasants in the northern state of Para. Following widespread protests in the Brazilian press, the videotapes were returned and then broadcast on television.

May 30
Arnaldo Jabor, O Globo, TV Globo, Folha de Sao Paulo, THREATENED

Jabor, a filmmaker and political satirist, was threatened with a lawsuit by Bonifacio de Andrada, a member of the country's Chamber of Deputies who also serves as an attorney for the lower house of parliament. Jabor writes for several Brazilian newspapers, including O Globo and Folha de Sao Paulo, and airs weekly commentaries on TV Globo, Brazil's most popular television network.
De Andrada said that he would start legal proceedings for defamation and slander against Jabor for comments he made during a news show on TV Globo. Jabor had likened the Chamber of Deputies to a marketplace where votes were traded for favors. De Andrada also demanded that TV Globo broadcast a statement repudiating Jabor's comments. Several international organizations, including CPJ, sent letters of protest to Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. At the end of June, no litigation against Jabor had begun.

December 20
Antonio Stelio de Castro, Pagina 20, ATTACKED, THREATENED
Altino Machado, Jornal do Brasil, THREATENED

Roberto Filho, a legislative representative for the state of Acre in northern Brazil, entered the office of the newspaper Pagina 20 in Rio Blanco with a pistol and threatened to kill Stelio de Castro, the editor of the paper, and Machado, a correspondent for the Jornal do Brasil news agency, according to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Miami. Filho also assaulted Stelio de Castro. Machado had written an article for Pagina 20 about alleged fraud in entrance exams at the Federal University of Acre. The article incriminated Filho's wife, as well as other politicians and local authorities.

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