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Fri Oct 21, 2016, 02:18 PM

Freedom of the press faces judicial harassment in Brazil

The same judicial system that exists to ensure rights can instead become a tool to violate rights and restrict freedom of the press, as seen with the recent wave of lawsuits against journalists and the media in Brazil.

The latest high-profile case involves the Gazeta do Povo, the main daily newspaper in Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná. The news daily faces 48 lawsuits from judges and public prosecutors who are suing the paper and several of its employees for reporting their incomes in February.

“There were weeks when four workdays out of five were spent running from one town to another in Paraná, to appear at hearings. I think overall we traveled more than 10,000 kilometres,” Rogerio Galindo, one of the three reporters facing legal action, told IPS.

Elvira Lobato, a journalist who writes for the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, went through a similar ordeal after publishing a December 15, 2007, article titled “Universal celebrates its 30th birthday, with a business empire.” The article dealt with the obscure dealings of the evangelical Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which owns television and radio networks and newspapers.

Lucio Flavio Pinto, an award-winning journalist who has published the independent newsletter Jornal Pessoal since 1988 in Belém, the capital of the northern state of Pará, has faced 33 legal actions brought by the local media empire “O Liberal” since 1992, after he uncovered illegal activities allegedly engaged in by its owners, the Maiorana family.

There have been other “attempts to curtail freedom of the press that in turn help to prevent new cases” with their strong repercussions, Ángela Pimienta, head of the Institute for Journalistic Development that maintains the internet portal Press Observatory, told IPS.

“Recurrent legal actions are the most efficient form of censorship,” said Pinto, recognised as an “information hero” by the Paris-based Reporters without Borders. In his case he did not receive solidarity from the National Association of Newspapers, which, like other newspaper owners' associations in Latin America, are often seen by news staff themselves as tacitly reinforcing, rather than combating, judicial harassment against journalists.

At: http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/freedom-of-the-press-faces-judicial-harassment-in-brazil/

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