Brazilian sports blogger Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado was arrested in September 2021. He was sentenced to five months in prison over a defamation case dating back to 2016; in November, he was transitioned from a prison complex to his home, where he is serving the remainder of his sentence.
Prado, better known as “Paulinho,” is the founder and host of the sports news website Blog do Paulinho, and often posts videos to the outlet’s YouTube channel, which has about 5,000 subscribers. Both outlets feature Prado’s frequent criticism of local soccer executives.
In the morning of September 28, 2021, São Paulo state civil police officers arrested Prado at his home, according to news reports, a video summarizing the case that Prado recorded before his arrest, and his lawyer, Daniel Casagrande, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. On September 30, Prado was transferred to the Dr. José Augusto Salgado unit in the Tremembé prison complex, in São Paulo state, about 90 miles northeast of the city of São Paulo, Casagrande said.
The journalist spent the first two weeks at the Tremembé complex in solitary confinement, which he later described to CPJ as “an extremely hard period. It is terrible to be in solitary. You eat and sleep poorly, you cannot read a book, you have no right to nothing.”
He was then transferred to a cell with more than 80 other people, during which he said he lost about 20 pounds due to the poor quality of the food, he said.
Casagrande told CPJ that the police were acting on an arrest order issued by the 26th Criminal Court of São Paulo state on February 23 to enforce a five-month prison sentence for Prado, in relation to a criminal defamation case that has been ongoing since 2016.
Prado filed a request for that prison sentence to be suspended or converted to house arrest, citing the health risk of imprisonment during the COVID-19 pandemic, but on March 8 Judge Marcos Vieira de Morais of the 26th Criminal Court denied that request, according to Casagrande, the judge’s decision, which CPJ reviewed, and Prado, who spoke to CPJ in March, prior to his arrest.
His arrest stemmed from an October 2016 defamation complaint by Paulo Sérgio Menezes Garcia, a business owner and board member of the Brazilian soccer team Corínthians Sports Club, in response to a September 2016 article on Prado’s blog about political donations that Garcia and his company allegedly made during municipal and national elections in 2014 and 2016, according to CPJ reporting. CPJ was unable to find contact information for Garcia.
In March 2018, the 26th Criminal Court of São Paulo convicted Prado of defamation and sentenced him to seven months and seven days in prison, the journalist and his lawyer told CPJ. Prado appealed the ruling and, in June 2019, the 12th Chamber of Criminal Law upheld the conviction but reduced his sentence to five months and 13 days, according to Casagrande and court documents reviewed by CPJ.
Casagrande told CPJ that he filed a new lawsuit in August 2020 requesting the suit be annulled, but said that Brazilian federal courts had not ruled on it as of October 2021. Following Prado’s detention in September, his legal team filed a petition with Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice requesting that the arrest warrant be revoked, Casagrande said.
On November 22, in response to a petition filed by Prado’s legal team, Judge Sueli Zeraik de Oliveira Armani, of the Penal Execution Court in São José dos Campos, which oversees prisoners’ sentencings, approved Prado’s transfer from prison to an “open regime” of detention based in his home, according to Casagrande, Prado, and the judge’s decision, which CPJ reviewed.
On November 23, Prado was released from the Tremembé prison complex, he told CPJ. Prado is allowed to work, but has to be in his home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day; he cannot leave the city without prior judicial authorization, and cannot go to bars and other public places considered “incompatible with the benefit (of the open regime),” according to the journalist and the judge’s decision.
Previously, in 2015, Prado was sentenced to five months and 10 days imprisonment on defamation charges stemming from a complaint filed by the president of a São Paulo soccer club, after Prado allegedly published messages and personal information from a WhatsApp conversation; he was released in November 2015 after 130 days in detention, according to the Brazilian free expression group ABRAJI and CPJ’s coverage from the time.
In November 2018, Prado served a separate one-month, 23-day prison sentence, also in the Tremembé prison complex, for criminal defamation relating to a complaint filed in 2013 by Milton Neves, a sports presenter, who said that Prado insulted him in a blog post on Blog do Paulinho, according to ABRAJI and CPJ research.
Prado has previously contracted pulmonary and pleural tuberculosis and pneumonia, and currently suffers from hypertension, increasing his risk of severe health problems if exposed to COVID-19, according to Casagrande and the journalist. Before his detention, Prado said he was concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19, which is widespread in Brazilian penitentiary facilities.
CPJ emailed São Paulo state civil police in late 2021, but did not receive any response.