Violence and local censorship threatened freedom of information in Brazil in 2012. Reporters Without Borders referred to this in the annual roundup that it published yesterday and will return to the subject in a report in January based on a visit to Brazil last month.
Reporters Without Borders would meanwhile like to express its concern about two new cases that are typical of the obstacles that Brazilian journalists encounter in the course of their work.
The first concerns Mauri König, a leading specialist in organized crime, who heads the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI) and works for the daily Gazeta do Povo in Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná.
Threats to kill König and his family were made in phone calls to several of his colleagues on 17 December. One of the callers said five members of the military police would come from Rio de Janeiro soon to machine-gun his home.
These threats, which were also made against two members of the newspaper’s management, came the day after the publication of one of a series of investigations coordinated by König about police abuses in the region. Last May, König did a series of reports about the behaviour of certain local police officers, which included visiting brothels in police vehicles in working hours.
Now in hiding with his family and receiving protection paid for by his newspaper, König plans to leave Paraná state soon. The head of Paraná’s Special Action Group against Organized Crime (GAECO), Leonir Batisti, meanwhile said on 18 December that the phone numbers of those who made the threats have been identified.
Reporters Without Borders expresses its full support for König and the ABRAJI and calls for full cooperation from the police departments that were the targets of his investigative reporting.
König’s departure from Paraná coincides with the return to São Paulo of Folha de São Paulo reporter André Caramante after an absence of three months prompted by a campaign of hate and intimidation that was also of police origin.
Reporters Without Borders has often condemned the censorship imposed on journalists and bloggers by local courts that are very dependent on local political authorities.
The absurdity and injustice of such actions has again been seen in the civil and criminal proceedings that Edson Ulisses de Melo, a high court judge in the northeastern state of Sergipe, has brought against José Cristian Góes, a journalist who posted a short piece of fiction on his blog, Infonet, last May mocking the nepotism and corruption of local politicians.
Although Góes’ post mentioned no names or dates, the judge thinks that it defamed his brother-in-law, Sergipe governor Marcelo Déda, who has not brought any lawsuit. As a result, Góes is facing a possible four-year jail sentence, a heavy damages award and court costs of more than 25,000 reais (9,000 euros).
“These proceedings are taking place solely because an overzealous judge wants to please his brother-in-law, the governor, who had him appointed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge Judge Melo to drop the case against Góes, who will receive our support in all the efforts he undertakes to combat this injustice.”