New York, May 14, 2004—A Brazilian judge has allowed New York Times Brazil correspondent Larry Rohter to continue working in Brazil while a government decision to revoke his visa is reviewed. Rohter’s visa was revoked earlier this week after he wrote an article about the drinking habits of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
On Wednesday, May 12, Sérgio Cabral, a senator who belongs to the governing coalition in Congress, petitioned Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ) to annul the decision revoking Rohter’s visa. Cabral argued that the government’s action constituted a violation of press freedom and of the journalist’s right to freedom of expression, both guaranteed under the Brazilian Constitution.
Yesterday, May 13, STJ Judge Francisco Peçanha Martins granted Rohter permission to work in Brazil while a 10-judge STJ panel examines the merits of Cabral’s petition. In addition, Judge Peçanha ordered the government to submit additional information about its decision within 72 hours.
After the government revoked Rohter’s visa, officials stated that Rohter, who is currently outside Brazil, would be notified of the cancellation of his visa upon entering the country and would then have eight days to leave.
The Brazilian government agency that provides the executive branch with legal counsel announced yesterday that it would not challenge Judge Peçanha’s decision.
A short press release posted on May 11 on the Ministry of Justice’s Web site and signed by Interim Minister of Justice Luiz Paulo Teles Ferreira Barreto said officials had decided to cancel Rohter’s visa under Article 26 of Law 6815 due to “a frivolous and misleading report that is offensive to the honor of the President of the Federal Republic of Brazil with grave damage to the image of the nation abroad.”
For more information, please see CPJ’s May 12 alert.