Freedom of Expression

Press Release 109/14

PRESS RELEASE

 

R 109/14

 

OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION PLEASED WITH RECENT RULING BY BRAZILíS SUPREME FEDERAL TRIBUNAL

 

Washington, D.C., September 29, 2014 Ė The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its satisfaction at the recent ruling on freedom of expression adopted by the highest court of justice in Brazil. The ruling nullifies a precautionary measure prohibiting the publication of an issue of the magazine Isto…. The Office of the Special Rapporteur welcomes this exemplary ruling and commits to publicizing it widely, pursuant to its mandate to promote freedom of expression in the Americas.

 

According to the information received, the ruling came in the context of a remedy sought by the publisher of the magazine Isto… against an injunction handed down by the Comarca de Fortaleza Court, in the state of CearŠ banning the publisher from distributing, selling, or publishing any news on the governor of CearŠ and a police investigation on money laundering and tax evasion. The injunction ordered the publisher to be fined 5 million reals (about US$2 million) should it fail to comply. The publisher appealed the ruling to the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF).

 

On September 17, 2014, the STF suspended implementation of the lower courtís ruling. According to the information received, the ruling took as its basis a judgment issued by the same tribunal on April 30, 2009, finding that the 1967 Press Law was not compatible with Brazilís Federal Constitution and reiterated the prohibition of prior censorship. This ruling has been highlighted by the Office on of the Special Rapporteur on previous occasions as an exemplary step forward on issues of freedom of expression. The Office of the Special Rapporteur has also documented with concern in its annual reports how courts have used prior restraints to block the circulation of information that is in the public interest. On this issue, article 13.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights states that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression "shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability."

 

In the recent September 17 decision, the court took into consideration that the information in question dealt with the actions of a public official; that it was not being published with gross negligence nor with the knowledge that it was false; and that although the information had to do with a confidential investigation, the journalists who received that information had not violated confidentiality requirements, as such requirements apply only to those who leaked the information.

 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its satisfaction at this ruling and believes it represents a remarkable step forward in the protection and strengthening of freedom of expression in the region.

 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.