Courts grant injunctions against two newspapers

New York, June 2, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that courts in Brazil have issued gag orders on two newspapers for their critical reporting on politicians in the run-up to a general election in October.

On May 8, the Civil Court in Campo Grande, capital of Mato Grosso do Sul state, granted an injunction to likely gubernatorial candidate André Puccinelli against the newspaper Correio do Estado. Puccinelli wanted the newspaper barred from linking his name to allegations of money laundering and corruption.

The court ordered Correio do Estado to meet the requirements of “objectivity of information,” “verification of sources,” and “impartiality and independence in news reporting,” in its coverage of Puccinelli. If it failed to do so, it would be fined 500 reals (US$220) for each copy of any story that fell short of those criteria. The newspaper appealed the ruling.

Correio do Estado covered allegations published in the April 25 edition of the daily O Estado de S.Paulo, which said Puccinelli was one of several politicians under investigation by federal prosecutors for corruption. On April 26, Correio do Estado sought Puccinelli’s comment. According to the newspaper, Puccinelli denied wrongdoing. No action has been taken against Estado de S.Paulo.

On May 17, the Regional Electoral Court in the northern state of Amapá ordered the weekly Folha do Amapá to remove its May 12 Web site issue. The ruling followed a petition by the Labor Democratic Party on behalf of state governor Waldez Góes. The party accused the weekly of publishing propaganda designed to damage the governor’s image and re-election chances. The court set a daily fine of 5,000 reals (US$2,220) for non-compliance. Folha do Amapá said it would appeal.

The May 12 issue reported that a steel manufacturer was leaving the state with the loss of 300 jobs. It noted that the company had come to the state with Góes’ endorsement.

Folha do Amapá’s Web site carried the court’s complete ruling on a dark background with the line: “Edition removed from the site due to a judicial action filed by the PDT, the political party of Governor Waldez Góes.”

“CPJ has documented a pattern of judicial censorship in Brazil over recent years,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “In the name of protecting privacy and reputations, judges have banned media outlets from covering corruption allegations involving public officials, politicians, and businessmen. We call on the courts to uphold press freedom and stop issuing gag orders on media.”