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Brazil8 September 2006

Electoral court censors blog that posted cartoon of senatorial candidate

Reporters Without Borders today criticised the state of Amapá electoral court for ordering a blogger to withdaw a cartoon of a senatorial candidate on 17 August. It also criticised UOL, the Brazilian company that hosted the blog (http://alcilene.zip.net/), for closing it down a few days later although the blogger, Alcilene Cavalcante, said she removed the cartoon as soon as she was notified of the court’s order.

“Bloggers have a right to publish cartoons just like the traditional media,” the press freedom organisation said. “The Amapá regional electoral court’s decision in itself is a violation of free expression but UOL’s action in closing down the blog it was hosting is even more shocking as it has no legal basis,” the organisation added, calling on UOL to reopen the blog at once.

The electoral court ordered Cavalcante to withdraw a cartoon of senatorial candidate José Sarney from her “Repiquete no Meio do Mundo (http://alcilene.zip.net/)” blog in response to a complaint by Sarney, a former president. Sarney also filed complaints against other bloggers, including Cavalcante’s sister, but the court rejected them.

UOL told Reporters Without Borders it asked Cavalcante three times to remove the cartoon before closing her blog. Cavalcante insists that she removed it the day she was formally notified of the court’s order, which was 25 August. It seems that the decision to close “Repiquete no Meio do Mundo” was taken by UOL’s legal department, and not by any court. Cavalcante has started another blog, this one hosted in the United States: http://alcineacavalcante.blogspot.com. Sarney has already lodged a complaint against the new one, she added.

Although it is rare, some electoral laws cover the electronic media, including blogs. But their chief aim is usually to ensure that all candidates are fairly represented in the media and they do not generally cover defamation. Reporters Without Borders believes that if Sarney thought he had been defamed or insulted by this cartoon, he should have taken it up with an ordinary court, not an electoral one. The organisation also believes the cartoon was in no way illegal and that Cavalcante was just exercising her right to free expression, a right recognised by Brazil’s laws.


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