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Brazil23 November 2006

Supreme court rules that journalists do not need to have a degree

The judges of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) yesterday unanimously resolved that it should not be compulsory for anyone working as a journalist to have a university degree. The STF was asked to rule on this issue the same day that the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), another senior federal court, voted unanimously to make it obligatory for journalists to have a degree.

Journalists’ unions and professional organisations yesterday immediately protested against the supreme court’s ruling, but Reporters Without Borders supports it, believing that anyone producing or handling news and information may be regarded as a journalist regardless of whether or not they have a degree.


20.11.06 - One high-level court finds against another over compulsory degree for journalists

Hours after the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) unanimously adopted a ruling on 8 November 2006, making it compulsory to possess a university degree to work as a journalist, the other top Brazilian jurisdiction, the Federal Supreme Court (STF), ruled in favour of maintaining the precarious registers (registros precarios), including for journalists. A São Paulo doctor, José Eduardo Marques, who acted as consultant on a health communications programme, had himself listed as a journalist on the precarious register before it was cancelled by the Ministry of Work. The doctor then took legal action and the STJ found in favour of the administration and professional journalist organisations, which favour the compulsory degree. The STF ruling now contradicts that of the STJ and the professional organisations plan to appeal to the STF against the ruling.


15.11.06 - Challenge to court ruling that journalists must have a university degree

Reporters Without Borders is to challenge a ruling by Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) that journalists must possess a university degree to be allowed to do their job, which it pronounced to be in line with the Constitution.

“A journalist is someone who handles or produces news and information,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Even if we understand professional organisations calling for a higher level of education, it seems to us to run contrary to press freedom and even to the right to inform people in general, to systematically demand that journalists should be university-educated”.

“Journalistic competence does not a priori depend on entitlement but on experience in the job. Moreover, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva himself signed the Chapultepec Declaration on 3 May 2006 on freedom of expression and information which declared optional the possession of a degree and affiliation to a professional body. This was a complete break with the law-decrees dating back to the military dictatorship, which the STJ invoked to justify its decision”, said Reporters Without Borders.

Judges in the first section of the STJ, one of the two highest federal jurisdictions in the country, decreed on 8 November that obligatory possession of a university degree in communications to be able to work as a journalist was in line with the Constitution.

The ruling came at the end of a lengthy legal case started last year by José Eduardo Marques, doctor and consultant on a health communications programme in Bauru, São Paulo state. The doctor had obtained the status of precarious journalist (registro precário) in the framework of public civil aid. A ministry of work ruling abolished this status, since it did not require an ad hoc degree in social communications. Eduardo Marques appealed, saying that the ministerial decision was contrary to Article 5 - XIII of the Constitution, which allows the exercise of any work, responsibility or profession as long as it meets legal requirements. The doctor won his case in a lower court, but it was overturned by São Paulo’s regional federal tribunal (TRF) in October 2005.

Eduardo Marques’s last appeal before the STJ then failed. In the grounds for its decision, the court relied on law-decree 972, regulating the profession of journalist, adopted under the military dictatorship in 1969. It also drew his attention to law-decree 83.284 of 1979, instituting the status of “contributor”. The decision was hailed by journalists’ associations.



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