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Brazil15 September 2003

Journalist imprisoned for expressing opinion

Alvanir Ferreira Avelino was freed on 10 September by a Rio de Janeiro court until it could rule on his appeal against imprisonment.


4.09.2003

Reporters Without Borders said today it was outraged at the arrest and imprisonment of Alvanir Ferreira Avelino, of the daily Dois Estados, in Miracema (north of Rio de Janeiro), to serve a 10-and-a-half month "part-time" jail sentence under a law passed by the former military dictatorship restricting expression of opinion.

"It is appalling that a press law from the army regime is still in effect," said the organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, in a letter to Miguel Pachá, head of the Rio de Janeiro court. "Prison terms for voicing opinions must be removed from the statute book because they are excessive punishment."

He noted that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion had declared in January 2000 that imprisonment for peacefully voicing opinions was a serious violation of human rights.

Ferreira Avelino was arrested on 29 August at his home in Campos (Rio de Janeiro state) and taken to Carlos Tinoco da Fonseca prison. He had been sentenced in 2001 to 10 months and 15 days in jail for "expressing an opinion" under the military regime’s 1967 press law. His lawyer, Paulo Rangel de Carvalho, said he was the only journalist convicted under the law.

His wife, Viviane Terra de Avelino, said he was spending a day in prison each week of his sentence and was in a cell with a dozen other prisoners.

Ferreira Avelino was sentenced in response to several libel suits against him in 1999 by Alexandre Mesquita, the Miracema town judge, who he accused in Dois Estados of abusing his authority.

In May this year, lawyer Maurício Monteiro called for the sentence to be struck down because of a two-limit limit on press offences. He said the journalist "owed nothing more to the state."



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