MIAMI, Florida (March 19, 2018)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today rejected the judicial harassment in Brazil to which the magazine VIU! has been seen in an apparent reprisal for journalistic investigations into wrongdoing in the public administration.
The executive editor of the Grupo VIU! group, Roberto Barbosa, reported that he has been the victim on several occasions of acts of intimidation of the VIU! magazine and the VIU! portal. The legal actions were taken by authorities, magistrates and public prosecutors of Campos dos Goytacazes, Macaé and Rio de Janeiro cities in Rio de Janeiro state with the aim of silencing the media.
"We have always noted in Brazil a strong predisposition on the part of public officials to file lawsuits against the media which in general are aimed at discouraging journalistic denunciations and investigations," declared IAPA President Gustavo Mohme.
Mohme, editor of the Peruvian newspaper La República, added, "While we are respectful of the right of citizens to resort to the justice system when they feel offended, we see that these are the exception, as the majority of the lawsuits come from public officials, who should be more subject to public scrutiny as indicated by inter-American jurisprudence and the OAS Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression."
Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said that often this kind of lawsuit is a strategy to intimidate the media, which carries with it dangers for press freedom and the public's right to information.
"The media, especially the smallest ones," said Rock, editor of the Mexican portal La Silla Rota, "cannot face up to the financial cost and the efforts implied by the defense in lawsuits, which is why many opt for self-censorship on seeing their sustainability in danger."
Barbosa has faced a lawsuit on four occasions in recent months. In January the judge, Ralph Manhães, sentenced the VIU! portal to payment of indemnity to a Campos dos Goytacazes female official said to have collected a bigger salary than the established amount. The judge ordered the portal to issue a correction and erase all the content on the matter.
In June 2017 two Macaé city councilmen sued the magazine over a report on a plan in the City Council to approve a zoning plan that would favor real estate businessmen. In another trial the chief of the Workers Party (PT) in Macaé, Marcelo Puertas, filed suit, demanding indemnity for the publication of criticisms made during his time as union leader.
In another lawsuit, Gerardo Pudim, a member of the Rio de Janeiro Congress, was denied payment of indemnity by the portal, for a denunciation of irregular appointments in the state's Transportation and Highways Department. The journalistic denunciation led to the arrest of leaders and politicians.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.