Judge orders censorship in Brazilian corruption case

On July 31, 2009, Judge Dácio Vieira of the Federal District Court in Brasilia banned the Brazilian daily O Estado de S. Paulo and its Web site Estadão from publishing reports on an corruption scandal involving the family of former Brazilian President José Sarney, according to local news reports.

The case stems from a July 22 report published by O Estado de S. Paulo on the allocation of federal contracts to relatives and close friends of former President Sarney, who is currently chairman of the Brazilian senate. O Estado de S. Paulo was the first outlet to report on Sarney’s implication in the scandal, known in Brazil as “Operação Faktor,” or “Boi Barrica” in reference to a legendary folklore creature from the State of Maranhão where Sarney’s family is from. The report is based on transcripts of recorded telephone conversations between members of the Sarney family during a police investigation centered on Fernando Sarney, the former president son, according to reports in the local press.


On July 30, Fernando Sarney filed an injunction against Estado de S. Paulo requesting the censorship of materials regarding the investigation against him, news reports said. Judge Vieira ruled that O Estado de S. Paulo will be fined 150,000 reais (US$82,400) for every story published on the case. The ban extends to other news outlets that reproduce O Estado de S. Paulo‘s stories.


O Estado de S. Paulo appealed the decision on the basis that Judge Vieira is a close friend of the Sarney family, Ricardo Gandour, the daily’s director, told CPJ.


Former President Sarney is under investigation for his implication in the Boi Barrica scandal, and for misappropriation of funds, tax evasion, and nepotism, according to international news reports.