The Federal Government has been showing its intention to restrict and undermine freedom of the press and expression. The National Conference on Communication, the National Conference on Culture, and the National Program on Human Rights (PNDH), held as government initiatives, reveal the intentions of the executive branch to create and strengthen mechanisms to control the media. At the beginning of March in São Paulo, participants in the Forum on Democracy and Freedom of Expression voiced this concern and representatives of a number of Latin American countries warned that the restriction of freedom begins precisely with the argument that it is necessary to exercise “social control” over the media. It should be pointed out that these warnings were expressed even after the Minister of Communications, Hélio Costa, had spoken to the participants and rejected any possibility of the government’s trying to control the media, at which time he defended a “new and great communication law” and the creation of new regulatory frameworks for the sector. In his opening address at the Forum, the president of the Board of Directors of the Abril Group, journalist Roberto Civita, criticized the PNDH, accusing it of being an example of an attempt at government control of the media. And Roberto Civita’s fear has a basis. As Representative Mendes Thame correctly points out, that Program includes a provision that permits the creation of a ranking of media outlets on the basis of human rights. “It is a matter of establishing a distinction among private entities—press organizations or communications media—without any reason or justification, except the will of the manager,” said the legislator. For him the PNDH makes clear the intention of the government to cause problems without legal authorization. At the same Forum, the head of the editorial offices of the Folha de São Paulo, Otávio Frias Filho, expressed the opinion that one cannot consider the situation of freedom of the press in Brazil as being as poor as in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, but he warned of authoritarian temptations to control the media in popular governments like that of Brazil: “Governments with high levels of popularity tend to be more authoritarian. I attribute some actions (to control the media) to the sensation of strength which that popularity confers.” In view of this situation, Otavio Frias Filho listed three functions of good journalism: to prepare citizens to take a more active and conscious role; to perform a sort of “short-hand of history;” and to function as a part of a system of checks and balances to power. For him, this last is the most important task of free journalism, with the understanding that it is healthful in a democratic society for there to exist some tension between the government and the press. The Vice President of Institutional Relations of the Abril Group ,Sidney Basile, stressed that the citizen is the one who takes control of the media: “You buy your magazine at the newsstand, you don’t like it, it’s horrible, badly made, and you don’t buy it again. This social control is perfect; there is no need for any other.” Basile added , “The State does not oversee the press, but rather it is the press that oversees the State.” The position taken by some statements on the Internet ( in defense of the government are also worrisome. Some texts state that “representatives of the major media say that the PT is against freedom of expression and democracy. They believe that if Dilma (Rousseff) is elected, Stalinism will be implemented in Brazil.” For defenders of social control of the media “the big media are already organizing a campaign against Dilma’s candidacy.” Internet attacks start by ridiculing the Forum – “promoted by an institute that is a defender of value such as a market economy and property rights, and which has among its board members names like that of João Roberto Marinho (Organizações Globo), Roberto Civita (Editora Abril), Eurípedes Alcântara (Veja magazine), and Pedro Bial (TV Globo).” The media are also concerned abut the National Conference on Culture, although the Ministry of Culture reported in mid January that the event has the primary objective of debating culture in the country. The concerns of the owners of Brazilian media were expressed by the newspapers O Globo and O Estado de São Paulo. In their texts, the two outlets emphasize the “authoritarian” nature of the document and associate it with attempts to restrict the rights to information and expression. “The basic text of the conference could belong to a museum of political teratology, as the peak of human stupidity. Before submitting it, however, it will be necessary to avoid its conversion into the official script of a policy on communication, science, and culture,” says the Estadão. The Brazilian Radio and Television Association (Abert) considered the base text of the Second National Conference on Culture to be a threat to freedom of expression. That text contemplates control of the media, affirming that the supposed monopoly of the media represents a threat to democracy and to human rights. The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) and the Bar Association of Brazil (OAB) also see in this document an attack of the government against the media. The executive director of the ANJ criticized the bases of the text: “The ANJ laments and condemns any initiative that aims to impede full freedom of expression. In this case, as well as in others reported on recently, there is an anti-democratic and anti-constitutional proposal, since full freedom of expression is one of the basic tenets of our Constitution. This attempt at domination, of interference in the contents of the media is inexcusable.” The OAB kept a critical tone in regard to the base text of the Second National Conference on Culture According to the group, the government is confusing the concentration of large journalism companies in the hands of economic groups with the idea of monopoly In the opinion of the OAB, the government cannot interfere in the freedom of the media to report to society: “Freedom of journalistic opinion, even though one may disagree with that opinion, is a fundamental right. The State must foster that freedom and not restrict it.” On the National Program on Human Rights, in mid January, the National Association of Magazine Editors (ANER), ABERT, and ANJ distributed a note to the press expressing its perplexity in the face of threats to the freedom of expression contained in the decree that created the PNDH. According to those groups, “for the purpose of defending and valuing human rights, which are above question, the decree contemplates the creation of a government commission that will watch over editorial production of media companies and will establish a ranking of those companies in terms of human rights. The decree contemplates punishments—and even cancellation of licenses in the case of broadcasters—for media companies that do not follow official guidelines in terms of human rights. Defending and valuing human rights is an essential part of democracy under the Constitution and all Brazilian law, and they have our full commitment and support. But it is not democratic and is flagrantly unconstitutional to have hierarchies and mechanisms to control information. Freedom of expression is a right of all citizens and it must not be ruled by government commissions. The associations that represent Brazilian media hope that the restrictions to freedom of expression contained in the decree will be eliminated, in benefit of democracy and all society.” Other relevant developments: The newspaper O Estado de São Paulo has been under prior censorship for almost eight months, prohibited by the judicial branch from printing any information about the supposed involvement of the company of Fernando Sarney—son of the ex President of the Republic who is now President of the Senate—in the misuse of funds and having a second set of books in a political campaign, under the allegation that the investigation is classified information. The suspicion of Sarney’s son in the scheme came about from a Federal Police investigation, Operation “Boi Barrica,” and it came to the public’s attention in a report published on July 16, 2009 in O Estado de São Paulo, based on information obtained legally. Two weeks later, the Court of Justice of the Federal District prohibited the Estado group from publishing any further information on the case and set a fine of R$ 150,000 for each report contrary to the decision. December 14, 2009, José Givonaldo Vieira, 40, was murdered. He was the owner and director of Rádio Bezerros FM and Folha do Agreste, in the city of Bezerros, state of Pernambuco. Vieira was traveling in his vehicle when he was cut off by another automobile from which an unknown assailant emerged who shot him three times in the chest and head. The attack occurred outside the facilities of Rádio Bezerros, where he ran the program “Bezerros Comunidade”, covering social topics. The motives of the attack are unknown. On December 18, Fernando Sarney made a request for termination of the action taken against the Estadão. In the meantime, the newspaper rejected dropping of the case and, on January 2010, it told the Court of Justice of the Federal District that it preferred that the suit continue so that its merit could come to judgment.