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Brazil25 October 2002

Paper censored over publishing governor’s phone conversation

Ler a versão portuguesa

Reporters Without Borders today deplored as "disgraceful" a threat by a Brazilian judge to seize the daily newspaper Correio Brazilense if it printed a transcript of phone conversations involving Brasilia governor Joaquim Roriz, who is running for reelection.

"Prior censorship is a practice only found under dictatorships and has no place in a democracy such as Brazil," said the organisation’s secretary-general Robert Ménard, who said it was "disgraceful and shocking" that a politician seeking reelection had resorted to such undemocratic behaviour.

"It contravenes the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which Brazil has ratified," he said. "It is not up to the judiciary to decided what Brazilians can or cannot read. The absence of censorship does not absolve the media of all responsibility however. They can be sued in a civil court and damages awarded if cases of libel."

On 23 October, Judge Jirair Meguerian, of Brasilia’s regional election court, ordered the seizure "by force if necessary" of all copies of the next day’s paper if it printed the transcript of the governor’s phone conversations with two businessmen, the Passos brothers, which suggested he was involved an illegal land deal. A legal official and the governor’s lawyer later went to the paper’s offices to check that the transcript was not in the next day’s paper.

The judge acted at the request of the centre-right governor and the Frente Brasilia Solidária, which backs him in the election. They said there were "strong indications" the transcript was going to be printed in contravention of a 1 October ban on doing so.

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