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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen in Brasilia on November 12, 2019. On November 8, Bolsonaro enacted a "slanderous denunciation" law under Brazil's electoral code. (Reuters/Adriano Machado)

Brazilian electoral law criminalizes sharing allegations against politicians

November 14, 2019 4:02 PM ET

Rio de Janeiro, November 14, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned a law enacted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that criminalizes slander under the electoral code.

On November 8, Bolsonaro enacted Law 13.834, which added “slanderous denunciation” as a criminal offense under Brazil’s electoral code, according to news reports. The law criminalizes knowingly accusing someone of a crime they did not commit, if that accusation opens a civil or criminal investigation, a crime that already exists in the Brazilian penal code. The electoral code version features a new clause making it illegal to share such accusations “by any means or form.”

Under both the penal and electoral codes, slanderous denunciation is punishable by two to eight years in prison and a fine.

“Brazil’s new amendment to its electoral code could hold journalists criminally responsible simply for reporting on allegations of illegal actions by political candidates -- information that is in the public interest leading up to next year’s elections,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Defamation and slander cases have no place in criminal courts; Brazil should remove this and all other laws criminalizing speech from its books.”

Brazilian authorities have repeatedly used the country’s outdated criminal defamation laws to pressure journalists in recent years, according to CPJ research.

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