MIAMI, Florida (June 19, 2008)-The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern that a Brazilian court decided against newspaper Folha and magazine Veja for publishing an interview ruled to be political propaganda. The organization called for a detailed review of the current law setting limits on electoral propaganda, saying it could go against what is understood to be legitimate news content.
São Paulo 1st Electoral Area Auxiliary Judge Francisco Carlos Shintate this week ordered the Folha de Manhã S.A. and Editora Abril, respective publishers of the São Paulo newspaper Folha and magazine Veja, to pay fines of $21,282 Reis (some $13,200) each for publishing an interview with Sao Paulo mayoral candidate Marta Suplicy. Suplicy was also fined.
IAPA President Earl Maucker stated that "we are surprised by this court decision because it might raise the risk of confusing news and propaganda. If so, the media wont be able to gauge the boundaries since the law may be very strict, advertising will be taken for news copy and vice versa, and the publics right to information will be jeopardized, just at a critical time when citizens need to be well informed and receive guidelines in order to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections.
The chairman of the IAPAs Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, in addition to regretting the courts action because it "can lead to self-censorship." Repeated previous IAPA calls on Brazils electoral authorities and those of other countries in the Western Hemisphere to look closely at regulations governing elections "because many of them border on censorship since they fail to distinguish the differences between the medias role to provide information and the need to provide balance in the propaganda of competing candidates and political parties."
The electoral court judge, who based his ruling on Law No. 9,504/97 enacted in September last year, said the interview with the nominee went beyond journalistic interests, characterizing it instead as typical electoral propaganda.
Municipal elections are due to be held throughout Brazil on October 5.