Journalist bodies call Brazil court’s censorship on Aos Fatos “judicial harassment”

Journalist bodies call Brazil court’s censorship on Aos Fatos “judicial harassment”

By: Team Logically Facts&
June 21 2023

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Journalist bodies call Brazil court’s censorship on Aos Fatos “judicial harassment”

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Nine organizations have come together to condemn the decision of a Brazilian court to uphold the censoring of leading fact-checking outlet Aos Fatos. In a joint statement last week, the organizations — which include journalist collectives and institutes dedicated to press freedom — termed the decision by the Rio Grande do Sul state court of appeal’s (Tribunal de Justiça do Rio Grande do Sul or TJ-RS) continued censoring of a 2020 article by Aos Fatos “judicial harassment.” The article was on the far-right website Jornal da Cidade Online (JCO).

The court’s decision is being viewed as an attack on press freedom that endangers the work of journalists and fact-checkers in the country. “Judicial power is being misused against journalists by persecuting them and silencing their work on investigating facts, which is indispensable for Brazilian democracy,” read the joint statement.  

In a report published in April 2020, Aos Fatos executive editor Tai Nalon exposed how JCO was purportedly part of a disinformation network and had allegedly shared its Google AdSense monetization and advertising strategy with several websites. The report claimed the strategy was also shared with the blog ‘Verdade Sufocada,’ which is run by the widow of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra — the first military officer convicted of kidnapping and practicing torture during the Brazilian military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.

In retaliation to Nalon's piece, JCO filed a lawsuit against Aos Fatos and obtained a favorable order from a trial court in May 2022. This order was upheld by the Rio Grande do Sul state court as it rejected Aos Fatos’ appeal resulting in the report being taken down from the website and social media handles. In a separate criminal case, Nalon has also been slapped with defamation charges by the owners of JCO.

JCO is currently being investigated by the supreme court for alleged anti-democratic acts as part of a “criminal network of disinformation.” The website is accused of spreading election misinformation in Brazil. “According to an excerpt from a report published by Minister Alexandre de Moraes in 2021, the portal (JCO) had a “significant increase” in revenue from advertising through Google AdSense shortly after the 2018 elections. (It) spread lies about the Brazilian electoral system,” the joint statement said.  

The statement also asserted that the order passed by the court last month clashes with the supreme court investigation into the disinformation network of which JCO is allegedly a part.
Aos Fatos called the court’s decision to censor it “another episode of judicial harassment against journalists in Brazil.” The outlet said it would appeal against the decision and “prepare for another legal battle” in higher courts.

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