Weekly magazine censored

New York, May 24, 2002—A Brazilian judge has censored CartaCapital, a weekly magazine based in the city of São Paulo. The magazine said it will fight the decision.

According to press reports in Brazil and court documents, copies of which were obtained by CPJ, Judge Marcelo Oliveira da Silva of the 21st Civil Chamber of Rio de Janeiro ordered the magazine to not disclose the contents of conversations between presidential candidate Anthony Garotinho and Guilherme Freire, a donor to Garotinho’s previous campaigns, that Freire had recorded.

The judge said that he would fine the magazine 500,000 reais (US$200,000) should the contents of the tapes be disclosed.

The tapes allegedly contain unspecified evidence regarding Garotinho’s business transactions that the weekly believes the public has a right to know in advance of presidential elections scheduled for October.

Prior to the judge’s order, the magazine tried several times unsuccessfully to obtain comment from Garotinho.

On May 21, Garotinho published an opinion piece in the daily Jornal do Brasil explaining his decision to request an injunction. “As a citizen who believes in the Constitution of my country, I sought the path of Justice,” he wrote.

Bob Fernandes, CartaCapital‘s senior editor, told the daily O Globo that his magazine decided not to run the Freire story for fear that the publication would be found in contempt of the judge’s decision. However, in its May 22 issue, CartaCapital published an article titled “The Forbidden Story,” describing to readers the series of events that led to the withdrawal of the story and announcing that the weekly has decided to fight Judge Oliveira da Silva’s order.

“CPJ condemns this blatant act of censorship, which threatens the right of Brazilian journalists to inform the public at a critical moment in the democratic process,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director.

In July 2001, a judge banned O Globo from publishing transcripts of taped phone conversations that allegedly showed Garotinho authorizing a bribe. The Jornal do Brasil has since published, without repercussion, the contents of those recorded conversations.