Reporters Without Borders has condemned unwarranted pressure against three journalists working for the weekly Veja designed to discredit them and to get them to reveal their sources of information.
The three, Julia Duailibi, Camila Pereira and Marcelo Carneiro, were subjected to questioning in São Paulo on 31 October in connection with an internal federal police investigation.
“If Veja’s accusations against the federal police turn out to be correct, then the summoning of Julia Dailibi, Camila Pereira and Marcelo Carneiro appears to be intimidatory and an abuse of power,” said Reporters Without Borders.
“Journalists do not have to be police auxiliaries and their right to protect their sources is guaranteed under the federal Constitution and the Chapultepec declaration on freedom of expression and information signed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on 3 May 2006,” it added.
“We urge the federal government to open an investigation into the conditions of this interrogation and to punish abuses.”
In a recent edition of the weekly, Veja revealed that federal police investigating the purchase of false documents designed to compromise opponents of President Lula before the first round of general elections, had tried to exonerate Freud Godoy, an adviser to the re-elected president. The scandal had a serious effect on the electoral campaign.
In order, officially, to find out how police responsible for the investigation into the “dossier scandal” had tried to stifle it, Commissioner Moysés Eduardo Ferreira summoned five Veja journalists, three of whom, Duailibi, Pereira and Carneiro, were finally questioned. But, according to the weekly, the journalists were treated as suspects and not as witnesses.
Ferreira reportedly tried to put pressure on Julia Duailibi by asking her for her reasons for writing “misleading things”. To her surprise, the police officer tried to attribute the word “misleading” to her in her statement.
The officer also took advantage of questioning to obtain information about the scandal. Still according to Veja, Julia Duailibi was ordered to reveal who had given her a CD containing photos of the sum of money intended to buy the dossier. She declined to give her sources. Ferreira then accused the Veja journalists of having fabricated evidence against the federal police.
Camila Pereira had written a linked piece based on interviews with lawyers, explaining the extent to which the “dossier scandal” could compromise Lula’s re-election. The police officer tried to get included in the statement that Pereira had been told “the paper does not normally pay for this type of contribution”.
The three journalists, who were in fact summoned as witnesses, did not have the right to consult the lawyer who accompanied them, were banned from communicating among themselves and were refused copies of their own statements.