Reporters Without Borders condemned a dawn raid on the offices of the daily Diário de Marilia in Marilia city, São Paulo state, on election day by militants backing the former mayor Abelardo Camarinha and his son Vinícius, a deputy in the São Paulo state assembly.
The mob, sent in by the Camarinha family, which is already suspected of an arson attack on the paper on 8 September 2005, tried to block the daily’s publication.
“Despite constant legal proceedings against him, despite legal moves to bar him from standing and strong suspicions that he was responsible for the fire at Diário de Marilia last September, Abelardo Camarinha is able to settle scores with the press with complete impunity”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“His lightning operation against the daily was intended to prevent the appearance of an article about him and was therefore planned. We express our support for the Diário de Marilia and call for Abelardo Camarinha and his son to face justice for this press freedom violation, despite the political support they enjoy.”
Members of Abelardo Camarinha’s support committee gathered at dawn on 1st October, the first round of general elections, at the headquarters of Diário de Marilia, which also hosts two local radio stations, breaking the plate glass entrance door, threatening journalists and demanding seizure of copies of the paper.
In the afternoon, a local judge granted a suspension order against the paper and the closure of its website, at the request of Vinícius Camarinha, in connection with an article about proceedings against his father to bar him from standing as a candidate to the federal parliament.
Two hours later, a court official went to the newspaper office to execute the order to seize the papers. In the evening, the newspaper’s lawyers Telêmaco Luiz Fernandes Júnior and Leonardo Frederico Lopes presented the judge with a request to revoke the previous decision, arguing that the offending article was based on checked facts. Police, who had managed to disperse the demonstrators, then had to intervene a second time.
Abelardo and Vinícius Camarinha were sentenced by an electoral court on 17 September 2006 to each pay a fine equivalent to 14,500 euros for “producing advance electoral propaganda”. They had both launched their campaign in some media starting in June and had already been convicted twice for the same reason.
The regional prosecutor’s office on 29 September launched a case against father and son for “abuse of power” and “illegal use of public staff and equipment”, aimed at getting Abelardo Camarinha barred from seeking public office until 2009 and for his son Vinícius’s mandate to be ended. The editor of Diário de Marilia, José Ursílio de Souza, reported on the proceedings in the edition which the supporters of the Camarinha family tried to prevent appearing.
The offices of the newspaper and the two radios, Diário FM and Dirceu AM were torched on 8 September 2005. On 25 January 2006, three men were sentenced to 12 years in prison, but the names of Abelardo and Vinícius Camarinha came up several times during the investigation as the alleged instigators of the arson attack.
On 14 March 2006, Abelardo’s brother, Rafael Camarinha, whose name had also been cited in the case, was murdered at his home by three armed men. Since then, Abelardo Camarinha has accused the editor, José Ursílio, of being behind the killing.