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The past six months were characterized, above all, by attempts to limit press freedom. Censorship brigades emerged to block the flow of news. Three journalists were killed while doing their jobs. But within this framework of violence, hope has arisen that impunity will be ended, because of the arrest of several defendants for the murders of journalists. In the legal system, large punitive damage awards were granted in lawsuits against the press. However, there was also a decision that lifted a gag order imposed more than a year ago on news about the trial of a judge. Despite the constitutional right to access to public information and special laws on the subject, the country does not have specific legislation to regulate and guarantee the constitutional principles of transparency and publicity. Bureaucracy is an obstacle to transparency. Evasions are used to cover up official and public information, and difficulties in access open the way for manipulation and censorship. On July 8, 2002, in Sao Paulo, the National Newspaper Association (ANJ) sponsored the first debate on the subject in Brazil. The session analyzed the legal framework in Brazil and laws in the United States, Mexico and other countries. The meeting concluded that public debates should be promoted in newspaper newsrooms, and journalists should take advantage of all the legislation that is available to obtain information, even if there is not a specific law. On September 29 and 30, 2003, the newly established Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) held a seminar in Brazil to debate practical and legislative methods to guarantee this right. The National Congress is considering several bills that would restrict freedom of news and information and affect access to public information. The most important are the Press Law and the Gag Law. The latter is an attempt to prevent judges and prosecutors from granting interviews and giving information to the press. This debate, with the participation of the Inter American Press Association, is extending to several countries. It is in the interest of ordinary citizens and civic groups, and will benefit them. On May 27, 2003, a soldier of the 31st Battalion of the Military Police (Receio, Rio de Janeiro/RJ) attacked two journalists of the daily O Globo, reporter Gabriela Temer and photographer Marco Antônio Cavalcanti, who were reporting on violence in Barra da Tijuca. On March 11, 2003, Álvaro Lins, the police chief of Rio de Janeiro, decided to revise the old “Gag Law” in his Internal Bulletin, and prohibited police chiefs and detectives from granting interviews. Information can only be released by the Civil Police’s press office. The new ruling is an exact copy of one published in July of 1999. On September 6, 2003, an accusation of sexual harassment by three officials against Judge Renato Mehanna Khamis became public. Judge Carlos Roberto Petroni in Pinheiros, Sao Paulo/SP, overturned the gag order imposed in favor of Judge Renato Mehanna Khamis in his trial before the state’s Regional Labor Court. He said the news is of “public interest,” and he authorized Universo Online and three other journalistic groups to discuss the topic. This had been forbidden for more than a year. On September 8, 2003, it was announced that publication of the contents of the Palacio de Planalto’s database “requires the authorization of the deputy chief for legal matters in the president’s office.” The rule was spelled out in Resolution No. 1091, signed by Minister José Dirceu. On September 25, 2003, a resolution of the Federal Council of Medicine said that professionals must demand to see texts of news reports. This means doctors must demand that journalists present the texts of their interviews before publishing them, which could be a method of prior restraint. On March 12, 2003, Red Globo was ordered to pay damages to Senator Luíz Estevão and to broadcast the sentence in prime time. Judge Maria de Fátima Rafael de Aguiar Ramos ruled that some comments that Arnaldo Jabor had made about the senator were offensive. The lawsuit was filed in 2002 after Jabor commented on changes in the size of the goals in a soccer field in Bezerrão for a game between Brasiliense and Atlético Minero. At that time, the former senator and owner of the Brasilia team was blamed for the change in the size of the goals. Red O Globo alleged that the report was lawful and no material or punitive damages were justified. The judge did not accept that argument and awarded 5,000 reals in damages. On May 7, 2003, television personality Xuxa Meneghel appeared in a civil court in Rio demanding damages from the daily O Dia, of Rio de Janeiro/RJ. The newspaper published nude pictures of her in July 2002. They had been published in 1981 by the magazine Ele&Ela. According to her lawyer, Luíz Claudio Moreira, “the publication was only authorized for the magazine, and the newspaper put one photo on the cover and others inside. Some covered almost half a page.” Xuxa demanded that the newspaper pay a 500,000 real fine because it also put the pictures on the Internet and damage payments equivalent to 3 million reals. In the suit, she said she would donate the money to the Xuxa Meneghel Foundation. Luíz Antônio da Costa, 36, a photographer for the magazine Epoca, was shot to death on July 23, 2003, in front of a homeless encampment on property of Volkswagen, São Bernardo do Campo in Sao Paulo. Minutes before, the murderers had robbed a service station a hundred yards away. The gang was identified in photos taken by André Porto of the newspaper Agora São Paulo and identified by witnesses. On July 30, Marco Antônio de Paula of the São Bernardo do Campo police station said two men had been arrested and confessed to the crime. In their statement, the murderers said the victim had taken their pictures after they robbed a service station near the Volkswagen property, which had been occupied by almost 7,000 homeless people linked to the Homeless Workers Movement. Marco Antônio de Paula said Renato dos Santos Lyra, alias “Bahía,” 23, and Alexandre Aparecido Silvério, alias “Negro Xéu,” 25, were jailed in Diadema and in São Bernardo do Campo, respectively. The two, and another young person, identified only as R.N., 16, were surprised by André Porto of Folha Imagem, seconds after shooting da Costa in the chest. The two men were caught with .38-caliber revolvers. Police said Renato confessed to the crime, although he said it was an accident because he was trying to shoot da Costa’s camera. Police believe the shot was deliberate. Renato does not have a criminal record. Alexandre had fled from a halfway house a day before the murder. The juvenile was released a day after he was arrested and accused of participating in the murder by the Juvenile Court of São Bernardo do Campo. Nicanor Linares Batista, news director and owner of Radio Vale do Jaguaribe AM, was murdered on July 30, 2003, in Limoeiro do Norte, Ceará, in the radio station’s studio. Witnesses said two masked men entered the studio and fired more than 10 shots at the businessman. They fled in a red motorcycle that police found the next day. The only other person in the studio, an engineer, hid during the attack. Batista was a polemical radio executive who did not mince words in criticizing bad public administration. He had been attacked and threatened more than once because of these reports. The police arrested eight suspects in the murder of the radio executive and four have been tried, one of whom probably committed the crime. One of the suspects detained is an army sergeant. Edmar Becerra Granja, the regional police chief of Russas who is handling the case, the suspects also have been involved in other crimes in the region recently, including freight robberies, robberies on buses and murders. The police chief thinks Batista’s murder could be related to criticism of municipal officials on his radio program. Edgar Ribeiro Pereira de Oliveira, 43, a partner and owner of the weekly Boca do Povo, of Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, was murdered on June 9, 2003, when we was dropping off an official at her house. The murderers began to shoot while he was parking his car in front of lot 1965, Dolor de Andrade St., Vila Esplanada. Witnesses said about 15 shots were fired. Boca do Povo, considered a polemical newspaper and described by some as sensationalist, has been published for six years. Benedito de Paula Filho, 52, a partner and owner, recalled that Oliveira was more involved with the business department, and wrote a column called “Chicotadas” (Whip Lashes) that made fun of events in general. Paula Filho had not heard that Oliveira had received any death threats, but he admitted that the paper published serious accusations. The businessman had several court cases pending for press offenses. Police discovered the names of two suspects who were identified as the murderers: Maurício Rodrigues de Almeida and Antônio Carlos do Nascimento. The latter is a retired military policeman. Both are in custody. The records of the case are in the Homicide Division. There is a possibility, which has not been confirmed, that the crime was related to his practice of journalism. On August 8, 2003, the former policeman, Divino José de Matos, known as Divino 45, who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the murder of journalist Mário Eugênio de Oliveira, was arrested while taking money from an automatic teller machine in Taguatinga, a suburb of Brasilia (Federal District). Mário Eugênio was a police reporter who had reported on his radio program, called “Gogô das Sete,” that there was a death squad in the city made up of soldiers and police officers. On November 11, 1984, he was shot seven times in the back with a .12-caliber rifle and a Magnum 357 as he opened his car door after leaving work at Radio Planalto. On November 22, 1994, Judge Sandra de Santis convicted Divino José de Matos to 18 years and 9 months in prison for the murder of Mário Eugênio. On September 5, 2003, after almost a year of investigation, police charged bookie João Arcanjo Ribeiro with the murder of Sávio Brandão, owner of Folha do Estado of Cuiabá (MT) on Sept. 30, 2002. Arcanjo, who is accused of heading organized crime in Mato Grosso, has been in custody since April 11 in Montevideo, Uruguay. The report of the Anti-Organized Crime Group of the Civil Police said Arcanjo, known as “Comendador,” was upset with reports published by Folha do Estado. On September 14, Hércules Araújo Agostinho, a former military police corporal, confessed to the organized crime task force (GAECO) that he had murdered businessman Sávio Brandão. He also said that João Arcanjo Ribeiro was the mastermind, that João Leite had hired them to do it and former military police officer Célio Alves had tracked Sávio’s movements. In his statement, the former corporal said the plot to kill Sávio Brandão began in July of 2002. Célio’s task was to follow the businessman. João Arcanjo participated in the first planning meetings. According to the former corporal, at first they planned to kill Sávio Brandão in Rio de Janeiro on September 30. But the group gave up the plan to ambush him in Rio and decided to kill him in Cuiabá, to keep costs down and because it would have less impact in Cuiabá. With the change of plan, Célio Alves stepped up his surveillance of Sávio Brandão. He informed the group almost every day about where the businessman went, especially in the afternoon. On September 27, 2003, policeman Mozart Castro Brasil was convicted by a court in Itabuna, Bahía, of killing Manoel Leal, owner of the daily A Região on January 14, 1998, with six shots (four in the head) at the door of his house in that state. Five years after the crime, Judge Marcos Bandeira sentenced Mozart Castro Brasil to 18 years in prison for homicide for the ambush of Manoel Leal. Mozart Castro Brasil was a police officer assigned to the Division of Economic Crimes and Crimes Against Public Administration (DECECAP). Two days earlier, on September 25, motorist Thomaz Iraci Guedes was unanimously acquitted of charges of driving the vehicle the murderers rode in. The third defendant, Marcone Sarmento, is a fugitive, and his trial was suspended.

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