Journalist freed after being illegally imprisoned for defamation

first_img News BrazilAmericas April 27, 2021 Find out more News RSF_en A court in the Amazonian state of Acre released Antônio Muniz, a local TV commentator and columnist for the daily newspaper O Rio Branco, on 4 December, two days after he was jailed in connection with a 2002 conviction on a charge of defaming a senator. “The court’s decision was necessary because press offences have been decriminalised,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are shocked that the court nonetheless forced Muniz to appear in handcuffs at a closed-door hearing, violating federal court resolutions. The local court clearly found it hard to recognise its mistake.”Imprisonment for press offences has been abolished in Brazil as a result of a Federal Supreme Court decision on 30 April repealing the 1967 press law. News April 15, 2021 Find out more May 13, 2021 Find out more Help by sharing this information Receive email alerts to go furthercenter_img RSF begins research into mechanisms for protecting journalists in Latin America Reports Follow the news on Brazil Alarm after two journalists murdered in Brazil Organisation December 8, 2009 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Journalist freed after being illegally imprisoned for defamation 2011-2020: A study of journalist murders in Latin America confirms the importance of strengthening protection policies BrazilAmericas Open letter to federal government about censorship and imprisonment under obsolete law Mr. Tarso Genro, Minister of JusticeMr. Hélio Costa, Minister of Communications Brasilia, D.FDear Ministers,Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, urges the federal authorities to intercede in certain recent cases that represent a direct attack on the principle of free expression enshrined in the 1988 democratic constitution.One of these cases concerns Antônio Muniz, a local TV commentator and columnist for the daily newspaper O Rio Branco in the state of Acre, who was returned to prison on 2 December for allegedly violating the judicial control to which he was subject. After being sentenced to a year in prison in 2002 on a charge of defaming Federal Senator Tião Viana in a 1999 article, Muniz managed to get the sentence suspended. The decision to return him to prison is all the more incomprehensible as the reason for his imprisonment has been rendered obsolete by the Federal Supreme Court. By repealing the 1967 press law on 30 April, the Court has excluded any possibility of a criminal conviction for press offences. Muniz must therefore be released.Press freedom has made great progress in Brazil with the current federal government’s help. The repeal of the military regime’s press law is an example of this. So too are proposed laws facilitating access to information and the “Revealed Memories” database (, which finally lifts the taboo surrounding the dictatorship years (1967-1985). However, this legislative progress is taking time to be reflected at the state level.The repeal of the 1967 press law, a great legal victory, has perversely resulted in a series of preventive censorship measures against news media. The most notorious case concerns the O Estado de São Paulo daily, which has been forbidden since 31 July to refer to any financial matters involving the businessman Fernando Sarney. The case’s transfer to a court in the state of Maranhão, whose governor, Roseanna Sarney, is Sarney’s sister, has created a flagrant conflict of interest.Preventive censorship has also been imposed on two online journalists in the state of Mato Grosso, Adriana Vandoni (blog: and Enock Calvacanti (blog:, who are accused of insulting José Riva, the speaker of the Mato Grosso state assembly. An appeal court judge (desembargador) upheld the censorship of Vandoni’s blog on 2 December.The sovereignty of individual states in a federal system only applies as long as fundamental constitutional principles are not violated. For this reason, we think it is urgent and necessary that the federal authorities should issue a reminder of these principles.I thank you in advance for the attention you give to this request.Respectfully,Jean-François JulliardReporters Without Borders Secretary-Generallast_img