BRAZIL The principal problem facing freedom of expression in Brazil is Congress’ consideration of a government bill which would ban police officials, prosecutors, attorneys general, judges and members of the federal auditing office from “providing information, via whatever media, about the investigations, actions and trials or allow that third parties learn of facts or information” related to investigations or legal proceedings which are under way. The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, passed the initiative, known as the “gag law,” in December 1999. The measure goes to the Senate. Enactment of the so-called gag law would be unconstitutional since it harms the principles of press and access to public information. In accordance with the latter tenet, any Brazilian has the right to be informed of any matters dealt with by the public sector, except for those kept confidential by the judicial branch. Besides, the proposed law violates the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec, signed by Brazil’s president. Brazil’s Supreme Court said the gag law is unconstitutional, thus opening the way for the country’s attorney general to submit a writ of unconstitutionality before the high court, should the bill become law. At present, there is a possibility the Senate will approve the bill, despite efforts to lobby senators to oppose the measure. At the same time, the Senate is considering another press-related law, sponsored by Sen. Jorge Bornhausen, a member of the Liberal Front Party (PFL) who represents Santa Catarina state. The spirit of censorship of the gag law is also reflected in another initiative–a bill for a constitutional amendment, promoted by the judicial branch, which is also under consideration in Congress. The bill’s sponsor is Zulaiê Cobra, a congresswoman from São Paulo state who is a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB). She has appended to the bill a ban on prosecutors and judges providing information about court cases. Passage of that measure would mean that the Constitution would feature yet another measure curtailing the free flow of information which in itself is guaranteed in the Constitution. This apparent paradox, absurd by any means, can be headed off if the sponsor withdraws the bill in the lower and upper houses of Congress. In a way, the push for the bill stems from the fact that the press, together with judges and prosecutors, has advanced with determination to inform the public and open legal proceedings against crimes in the public and private sectors. The perpetrators of such illegal acts would likely go unpunished if such legal developments were cloaked in a veil of secrecy. Brazil’s congressional leadership plans to bring to the floor a bill approved by the Commission of Constitution and Justice. The bill has drawn criticism that it curbs press freedom and, as a result, voting on the bill has been delayed. However, the bill’s sponsor, Goiás state PFL congressman Vilmar Rocha, seeks to renew action on the bill during the first half of this year. A postal service bill that could affect the press is under consideration by the Chamber of Deputies’ Commission of Science, Technology, Communication and Computer Science. Depending on its interpretation, the government-sponsored bill contains an article, which would force newspapers and magazines to distribute their publications via the government-owned mail system. National associations of dailies and magazine publishers have submitted an amendment to the bill, which would quash any such prospect. Following intensive discussions, the government decided to withdraw from the original text language regarding the distribution of books, newspapers and magazines, on condition that such distribution be done by the publishing houses. Responding to a request made by last August’s IAPA mission to Brazil, a businessman in the town of Barroso, Minas Gerais state, was tried in court in November for the March 21, 1995, killing of newspaper owner Zaqueu de Oliveira. He died during a shootout with the businessman – José de Carlos de Souza a.k.a. Zé de Tatão – over news published in de Oliveira’s Gazeta de Barroso. The case was to be shelved after languishing for four years. The IAPA’s prodding of federal and state authorities was a decisive factor in getting de Souza tried in court. The trial was marked by severe tension, particularly due to the presence of de Oliveira’s mother, Erondina das Graças de Oliveira, who had gone into hiding in another state following the crime because she was considered a key prosecution witness. Despite the emotional atmosphere, the trial proceeded peacefully and with due process. The jury, comprised of four women and three men, deliberated for 18 hours before acquitting de Souza on grounds that he had killed the journalist in “legitimate self-defense.” According to the case file, de Oliveira first opened fire. Under Brazilian law, the circumstances allowed for permissible self-defense. Witnesses testifying in the trial confirmed the case file, according to which the shootout began when the journalist opened fire after an argument with de Souza in a public square over the news published in the Gazeta de Barroso. Of the eight killings of journalists between 1995 and 1998 in Brazil, de Oliveira’s case was the first to reach trial, thus breaking the pattern of only having inconsequential legal action follow the shooting deaths of journalists. Even though from the point of view of freedom of the press, it would have been better to have de Souza found guilty, his trial in itself sent notice that the killers can no long escape punishment. It showed that one way to escape responsibility – the languishing or shelving of legal cases – was no longer acceptable. De Oliveira’s trial will certainly serve as an example and intimidate those who believed they would go unpunished for killing media professionals. The outstanding fact, however, is that the killers of the seven other journalists have gone unpunished. Their cases are proceeding at a snail’s pace. The killings occurred inland, where police investigations and judicial cases are adversely affected by factors ranging from the substandard material resources to political meddling, thus allowing the perpetrators of the killings to escape punishment. Repeated demands that the authorities identify and punish the accused have been fruitless. The following killings remain unpunished: Marcos Borges Ribeiro, owner of the daily O Independente, of Rio Verde, Goiás state. Killed on May 1, 1995, he had reported on violation of human rights by the police as well as irregularities among governmental authorities. Aristeu Guida da Silva, owner of the daily A Gazeta de São Fidélis, of the city of the same name in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Of the four defendants in his murder, only one has been punished to date. Reinaldo Coutinho da Silva, owner of the Cachoeiras Jornal, of the city of Cachoeira de Macacu, in Rio de Janeiro State. He was killed August 29, 1995, after having published reports that led to the jailing of members of the military police, and was to report on incriminating facts regarding the administration of the municipality. Ronaldo Santana de Araújo, host of a program on Rádio Jornal in the city of Eunápolis in the state of Bahia, was killed on October 9, 1997. The journalist denounced drug traffickers and members of death squads operating in the region. Edgar Lopes de Faria—the host of the program “Na Boca do Povo,” broadcast on Rádio FM Capital, located in the city of Campo Grande, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – was killed on January 14, 1998. He systematically reported on alleged irregularities of influential people in the region, including the mayor. The presumption is that the killing was politically motivated. José Carlos Mesquita, host of the “Espaço Aberto” program on TV Ouro Verde, in the city of Ouro Preto do Oeste, Rondonia state, was killed on March 9, 1998. He had reported on deficiencies in the city’s public transport system. Chronology of recent assaults against journalists: December 31, 1999: Army soldiers assaulted reporters and photographers who were carrying out professional duties at the military fortress in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana district. Among others assaulted verbally and physically were Jornal do Brasil photographer Fernando Bizerra Jr. as well as Ed Ferreira and Rosa Costa, of the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and Sheila Chagas, of the editorial publication group Abril. January 10, 2000: Marcelo Soares, a photographer for Jornal do Commercio, a newspaper based in Recife, capital of Pernambuco state, was assaulted verbally and had his camera’s flash broken by Francisco Emanuel, the deputy public registry official in Boa Viagem. The photographer was on assignment regarding a story about irregularities committed by public registries in supplying birth and death certificates. February 17, 2000: Juarez Rodrigues, a photographer for Estado de Minas (based in the Minas Gerais state capital of Belo Horizonte), was physically assaulted by two military policemen –Sgt. Araújo and private Luís Carlos of the 126th Company of the 22nd Batallion of the Belo Horizonte military police. They took away his photo equipment and cellular phone and demanded he hand over film with shots of a police action. February 22, 2000: Reporter Erick Guimarães, photographer Marcos Studart and chauffeur Valdir Gomes Soares, of the newspaper O Povo, based in the Ceará state capital of Fortalezo, were assaulted by Luís Antônio Farias, mayor of Hidrolândia, 240 km (150 miles) to the northeast. The reporting team’s assignment was to investigate complaints against the mayor, a member of the PFL party. He was accused of physical aggression against opponents, of corruption in providing food for the needy and only allowing services in public health posts to his allies. The attacks on the reporting team began when Guimarães, accompanied by Studart, was interviewing the secretary of education. The photographer heard shouts to one side of the room and saw that the mayor was attacking Soares, the chauffeur. Studart tried to help the driver but was also assaulted. According to their account, Studart and Soares were detained in the municipal building and were tortured under the command of the mayor, who demanded to know who had sent the team on assignment. Soares received blows to his ears, on the neck, on the face and upper body limbs. He received several cuts, including on the ear. Regarding censorship cases: January 21: Col. Luis Gonzaga Vieira, the new director of the Security Forces Operations Center in Fortaleza, prohibited people using scanners from passing information to the press about attacks, accidents and other events that could have repercussions or harm the image of security forces. He justified the measures on grounds that the objective “is to concentrate all the information so that it wouldn’t be hastily disseminated.” The press is informed about everything that happens with police via communiqués. January 27: The Rede Globo network reported that it was the target of censorship involving its nationally broadcast “Globo Repórter” program. The program airing January 28, had two segments altered by a ruling of Judge Ayrton de Luna Tenório, of Porto Calvo, Alagoas state. The report was prevented from mentioning the names of Judge Luciano Galvão and Prosecutor Sérgio Eduardo Simões, who both work within the same jurisdiction and are suspects in the involvement of prostitution of minors. The president of the Supreme Court, Costa Leite, upheld the verdict of the lower Alagoas court. February 10: An Alçada civil court upheld the decision of a judge in Montes Claros, Antônio Adílson Salgado Araújo, banning Jornal de Noticias from publishing reports against state legislator Luiz Tadeu Leite of the PMDB party. Likewise, the Jornal do Norte, controlled by the legislator, could not publish material against businessman Edgar Atunes Pereira, the owner of Jornal de Noticias. Failure to comply with the ruling would mean a fine of 20,000 reais. The ruling quashes successive injunctions in judicial actions brought by both parties, who belonged to different political factions. But professionals in both newspapers considered that it was a matter of censorship and curtailing of freedom of the press. Regarding threats: November 19: Journalists from the Correio Popular (of the city of Campinas, São Paulo state), received death threats which obliged the paper to omit story bylines to avoid identifying the authors of stories about a parliamentary inquiry into drug trafficking. January 19: The military police endangered the lives of photographer Chico Ferreira, of the A Gazeta newspaper and of cameraman Edney Cácio of TV Cidade Verde of Cuiabá when they forced them off of a water tank where they were perched to cover an escape attempt from the regional penitentiary. January 27: The Jornal de Santa Catarina, of Blumenau Santa Catarina state, reported it was under economic pressure brought by City Council President Deusdith de Souza. In a letter to the management of RBS, the business group that owns the newspaper, the councilman questioned the coverage of a trial in which the court sentenced him to two years in prison. The councilman added he would suspend the placement of city council advertising in the paper if the daily continued the coverage. Regarding judicial pressures against newspapers and journalists: November 26, 1999: Judge Francisco de Assis Brito Braz e Silva, of the 4th Circuit Court of the jurisdiction of Tersina (capital of Piauí state), granted an injunction to the Municipalities’ Association of Piauí, which bans the press from disseminating any names of mayors or municipalities involved in any judicial cases until the verdict. The judge’s ruling also levies a 20,000 reais fine to those failing to comply with the terms of the decision. December 14: The military justice system of São Paulo threatened to prosecute reporter Lilian Christofoletti, of Folha de S.Paulo (of the city of São Paulo) on charges of disobedience, because the newspaper refused to turn over a cassette tape in which a military policeman related methods used to provoke the death of jailed wounded suspects.The management of the newspaper understands that the move by the military justice violates the constitutional right to confidentiality of sources. On October 18, the paper published a news story headlined “Police describe ‘authorized’ measures of torture and killing of suspects.” One of the bases of the article was the recorded interview of the São Paulo police officer who granted the interview on the condition he would not be identified. The order to turn over the tape was issued by a military judge, Luiz Gonzaga Chaves, who acted on a request brought by military prosecutor Fernando Sérgio Barone Nucci. The military police investigation was presided over by Col. Sidney Mesalira. According to the lawyer for the newspaper, Luís Francisco Carvalho Filho, the request by the military judge contravened the constitution, the Press Law and jurisprudence of higher courts. In his opinion, the attempt to violate source confidentiality by demanding the tape amounts to abuse of power and an illegal constraint. In a legal motion sent to the Military Justice system, the lawyers appended the ruling of Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello, who had stated the constitutional safeguard “disallows whatever measures tend to pressure or constrain a professional journalist from indicating the origin of the information to which there had been access.” The cited ruling added: “In exercising the legitimate prerogative of the confidentiality of sources, journalists are not liable for any criminal, civil or administrative sanction or any inquiry by the State and its agents.” On November 23, the military judge in his ruling said, “The refusal to turn over the cassette does not correspond to the interests of society, even though it is safeguarded by the right to confidentiality of sources.” December 24, 1999: Ruy Morato, a judge handling civil and work accident cases for the Fourth Circuit of Manaus (Amazonas state) granted an injunction on behalf of Amazonas court judge Daniel Ferreira da Silva, against the newspaper A Crítica of Manaus. The injunction bans the paper from publishing any news or images about the perpetrator and the facts about the reports of the magistrate’s irregularities. Failure to comply with the measure would result in a fine of 1,000 reais per day until there was a decision on award of damages in the case brought by the plaintiff. January 1, 2000: Prosecutor Maurício Cerqueira Lima requested charges be brought against reporter Marconi de Souza and chauffeur César Mendes da Conceição, both of the newspaper A Tarde (of Salvador, capital of Bahia state). During their journalistic investigation, the journalist and chauffeur exchanged birth certificates to demonstrate fraud in the issuing of ID cards at a municipal office. The prosecutor did not accept the argument, maintaining that the investigation aimed to contribute to the improvement of public administration. February 2, 2000: Lawyers of Paulo Maluf, the former mayor of São Paulo, went to court seeking compensation for alleged damages against Marcelo Beraba, head of the Rio de Janeiro bureau of Folha de S.Paulo, over the article “Electoral Responsibility,” published on Jan. 31. On the very same day, the politician announced his intent to sue the journalist. The lawsuit does not fix a compensation amount, instead asking the court to determine the value freely, but not on the basis of the Press Law, which sets a ceiling of 200 monthly minimum wages (27, 200 reais) for compensation in this type of cases. Besides compensation, the lawyers requested that the full text of the court ruling be published in Folha de S.Paulo, at Beraba’s expense, should the verdict be favorable to the plaintiff. “The article is within the limits of political criticism, apart from reflecting and expressing the thinking of certain sectors of public opinion,” said the paper’s managing editor, Otávio Frias Filho. As of February 23, judicial authorities had not summoned Beraba.