BRAZIL The two-year-long decline in attacks on journalists, especially murders and assaults, is continuing. Even so, one cannot say the Brazilian press is free of threats. A major threat is a new press bill under consideration in Congress which could hinder the free practice of journalism, limit press freedom and raise the prospect of costly libel compensation awards which could jeopardize the survival of media companies. Such economic pressure could bring back self-censorship to the detriment of Brazilian society and democracy. Another source of concern is that crimes against journalists and newspaper owners have gone unpunished. Flawed and delayed investigations, compounded by the lack of political will and the slow turning of the wheels of justice, are contributing factors in the lack of progess in resolving the cases. The failure to punish those responsible can only serve as a stimulus for the repetition of such crimes. The current Press Law, enacted 30 years ago, has already provided the legal basis for a rise in libel and defamation lawsuits against newspapers, with plaintiffs requesting costly awards. A new press bill has been under consideration by Congress since 1991 when it was first presented in the Senate. The National Newspaper Association (ANT) has strongly opposed some of the proposed features of the law, including prison terms for journalists found guilty of libel and defamation. The ANJ has strenously objected to a move to set fines at 20% of a newspaper's annual revenue, a measure capable of bankrupting a news organization. Despite the ANT opposition, a minority of legislators acting out of personal interests insist on going ahead with a bill that would gag the press. The Press Law bill faces a floor vote in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress. No date has been set for the vote, allowing scope for amendments which could conceivably worsen its provisions. The bill then goes to the Senate and if passed is sent to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who has the power to partially or fully veto it. The most critical aspect of the bill is doubtless that of compensatory libel damages. The bill sets no ceiling or objective paramaters to determine libel awards. President Cardoso however favors a ceilingon court awards. Brazil's media umbrella organizations - including the ANJ (newspapers), ABERT (broadcasters) and ANER (magazines) - say that unlimited compensatory damages could pose a threat to press freedom. On October 5, they issued a manifesto to the nation alerting the public to the threat to press freedom represented by the press bill. To substantially reduce frivolous and malicious lawsuits the ANJ proposes that a plaintiff initially sets the value of his sought damages and is liable to legal fees if the lawsuit is judged groundless. This proposal was not admitted for consideration into the Congress' Constitutional and Justice Commission (CCJ). The Senate CCJ in September acted favorably on a bill drafted by Senator Roberto Requlao to regulate a «Right of Reply." According to the proposal, any news medium which does not comply with a judicial order to allow a response must pay a fine equal to 1 % of its revenue on each day of noncompliance. The ANJ acknowledged that there have some positive developments in the current press bill, including the protection of confidentiality of sources and the right of reply. In summary, the press bill under discussion poses major risks to press freedom by raising the prospect of unlimited civil damages against news media and heavy fines and jail terms for journalists. Self-censorship is a real possibility since news organizations and journalists fear they will not be able to pay excessively heavy court-ordered damages. Even so, various congressmen are pressing for stiff punishment for journalists and news media, raising the risk that the new law whill segferly restrict press freedom in Brazil. As far as recent journalist-related trials go, there is a clear disparity in the speed of the procedings. When the initiative is brought by legal authorities, court proceedings can advance rapidly. But the wheels of justice turn slowly when a journalist or news medium is the plaintiff. An "esprit de corps" among legal authorities has become evident in press-related trials. Heavy fines have been leveled on newspapers in recent months. In Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo in Sao Paulo state, the weekly Debnate, whose monthly revenue is $8,000, was ordered to pay a prosecutor and a judge a fine of nearly $340,000. If this fine were to be applied proportionately to the major newspapers, it would amount to some $1.7 billion. Last August, in the state of Maranhao local dailies were ordered to pay heavy compensatory damages. 0 Estado de Maranhiio, which belongs to the family of former president Jose Sarney, was ordered to pay compensatory damages of $3.36 million. Principal incidents involving censorship, intimidation and restrictions of press freedom include: April 23 - The directors of the soccer club Vasco de Gama of Rio de Janeiro barred some journalists' access to their stadium by sending letters to their editors, suggesting the newspaper, radio and television stations not assign them to cover their games. April 24 - Fernando Veloso, at the time a political columnist of the Diario de Pernambuco, and members of his family a series of work-related threats. Veloso's wife, reporter Edna Nunes, suffered two attacks, one of them a violent physical assault. April 29 -Journalists were injured as they covered a confrontation in Rio de Janeiro between police and protesters demonstrating against the privatization of Companhia Vale do Rio Doce. May 13 - After publishing stories on an alleged vote-buying scheme in the Chamber of Deputies - involving a constitutional amendment allowing re-election of the president, governors and mayors - the daily Folha de S. Paulo received telephoned threats. June 20 -A judge barred the newspaper 0 Diaro de Bauru from reporting on developments involving the Ophtamological Foundation of the city of Bauru in the state of Sao Paulo. The judge, Yuji Uchiyama, of the 1st Civil Court of Bauru, approved a request by the foundation and banned the paper for reporting that large fees were being charged for services not performed. July 9 - Rio de Janeiro police pursued a witness who had been interviewed by the Jornal do Brasil. Rio 4th Fourth Criminal Court judge Sidney Rosa da Silva gave the paper 72 hours to hand over its list of subscribers on the street where the crime occurred in a bid to identify the witness. August 19 - Minas Gerais State judicial police, armed with a military justice warrant, burst into the paper 0 Tempo of Belo Horizonte and demanded the negatives of photos taken during a demonstration of military police pressing for better salaries. September 15 - Prosecutor Roberto Funari, in the city of Taquaritinga, Sao Paulo state, "requested" that the local unit of the military police no longer supply to third arties, "including the press," any data that could identify their detainees, unless the latter authorized them in writing to do so. In protest, the local newspapers, weeklies and radio stations disseminated kitchen recipes and parochial news such as baptisms and the schedule for Mass. Attacks reported included: April 2 - Photographer Jose Alves Filho of newspaper Meio Norte, of Teresina Piaui, was jailed and humiliated by officers of the 8th Police District, who also tortured members of his family. The assault was in retalaition for his having photographed police officer Francisco Soares Rocha rapping 23 youths on the hand, inflicting severe pain. April 14 - While interviewing preferect Germina Venturolli of AraCatuba, Sao Paulo, Folha da Regido reporter Alessandra Nogueira Andrade was verbally abused by the official's chief of staff, Sylvio Jose Venturolli. April 28 - Unidentified assailants torched a car belonging to Sergio Heidrich, owner of the newspaper Univale of Portao in the state of Rio Grande do Sol. After publishing stories on drug trafficking consumption by teenagers, Heidrich received a series of anonymous telephone calls. Days later, a home-made bomb destroyed his car. May 27 - Jornal no Brasil reporter-photographer Carlos Wrede was assaulted as he covered the burial of drug traffickers in the Jacarezino shantytown in Rio de Janeiro. The city 17th police precinct advised him to drop legal action. June 16 - 0 Globo photographer Cesar Loureiro was punched by Navy non-commissioned reserve officer Alfredro da Silva. The attack occurred in Campo Grando in western Rio de Janeiro as the sailor was leaving his attorney's office. Da Silva is suspected of selling contraband, a criminal offense. Murder Investigations: On March 21, 1995, Zaqueu de Oliveira, publisher of the newspaper Gazeta de Barroso in Minas Gerais state, was shot and killed by a butcher, Jose Carlos de Souza. The crime took place after an argument about an article in the paper saying de Souza's wife, the secretary to the Barroso mayor, was devising a corruption scheme. After a lengthy delay in the case, a committee of legislators and journalists visited Barroso, Barbacena and Sao Joao Dei Rei in Minas Gerais state, to follow up on the crime investigation. The visit was backed by the National Newpaper Association. The fact-finding committee established that it took until the very day of their visit, on November 11 last year, for the police to forward the results of their investigation to the Public Prosecutor's Office for its evaluation. The police delay lasted more than 18 months, even though by law police are required to forward investigative findings within 30 days. According to judge Marica Nonato da Silva, of the First Criminal Court of Barbacena, the delay was due to successive extensions requested by the Civilian Police. The judge is summoning witnesses to testify on November 15 of this year. On May 1, 1995, Mario Borges Ribeiro, the owner of the daily 0 Independente of Rio Verde, Goias, was murdered in his home in front of his wife, Cimei Cristina de Oliveira. Ribeiro had published reports of Rio Verde police violations of human rights and of government irregularities. The killing came shortly after he said the police had threatened him not to continue publishing the reports. On October 31, 1995, prosecutors charged civilian police officers Glaudio dos Reis Santana and Joana D'Arc de Souza with the murders. Witnesses have been summoned to testify later this year. On May 12 that year, Aristeu Guida da Silva, owner of the newspaper A Gazeta de Silo Fidelis, was shot seven times and killed in Sao Fictelis, Rio de Janeiro state. He had been receiving threats over his publishing of reports of alleged city council irregularities. Legal proceedings in the case began on April 2, 1997 in the Sao Fictelis Criminal Court. There are four suspects, three of them now in prison and the fourth - a city councilman - being freed on a writ of habeas corpus. The four defendants have testified before the court. On August 29, 1995, Reinaldo Ciyutubgi da Silva, owner of Cachoeiras Jomal of Cachoeria de Macucu, Rio de Janeiro state, was shot 14 times and killed at a traffic light, in Sao Gonzalo. He had published artides that led to the imprisonment of a numer of military police officers. His newspaper was also preparing an artide that would compromise the administration of an ex-prefect. Also among the journalist's enemies was a local businessman. The results of the police probe initiated in the nnd Precinct of Sao Gonzalo, was sent on January 23, 1996, to the 2nd Investigative Center of Rio de Janeiro. It was then forwarded the following April 3 to the 2nd Division of Defense of Life, where certain legal proceedings requested by prosecutors are pending. So far, the investigatation has not produced any lead as to who may have committed the crime.