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Kucinski Defends Press Law

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“It was them”: Lynch mob journalism, Brazilian style.
Veja issues a peremptory verdict in case of the parents of a young girl killed in a fall from a São Paulo high-rise condo, reportedly with signs of previous physical violence — a “moral panic” case that has taken up at least half the ink and airtime in Brazil for weeks now.The police investigation has not yet concluded. And Veja does have a poor track record when it comes to prognosticating guilt and innocence. See, for example, Veja Só: Editorial Integrity at Brazil’s Grupo Abril.

Kucinski In Praise of the Press Law (Google Documents). The article appears today in the Observatório da Imprensa (Brazil).

I am departing from my usual habit of providing an interlinear translation — the original text, followed by its translation — because, well, because doing that is a time-consuming pain in the ass.

I used OmegaT to translate the text much more quickly and efficiently. I have done my best to translate accurately.

One of the greatest sources of culture shock here in Brazil is the debate over the 1967 Press Law, a dictatorship-era measure that among other things (1) makes slander, defamation and “vituperation” criminal, not civil, offenses; (2) requires journalists to be registered with and licensed by the state, and (3) in an article making the right of reply obligatory, provides a weird exception to the requirement in the event the reply to which the offended has a right is deemed offensive to the publication he or she feels offended by.

The Supreme Court recently struck down a number of these provisions. See

Every gringo libertarian bone in my body screams that this can only be a good thing. See, for example

Civil remedies, with swift resolutions and appropriate damages awarded by a competent court of law, are the proper way to people to stop lying about and slandering you.

Reasonable people will naturally tend to stop paying good money for news organizations that regularly lie to them, if that fact is pointed out to them.

Journalists can be trusted to abide by the canons of professional ethics. Journalists who fail to do so join the ranks of the unemployed along with Stephen Glass, Judy Miller, “Jeff Gannon” and Jayson Blair.

Not all of this applies so readily to the case of Brazil, however, where media ownership is more concentrated than frozen Florida orange juice inside a black hole in space, the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, damages awarded are not sufficient economic deterrents to the kind of conduct in question, jabaculê rules the day, and art of the media-driven gabbling ratfink is something of a national blood sport.

Which partly explains why Bernardo Kucinski, a veteran of the dictatorship-era leftist “alternative press” — I have been reading his history of that movement lately — disagrees with my libertarian instinct. His argument is a familiar one: That the old litany about the sacred “freedom of expression” opens the way for jaw-dropping abuses of said “freedom.” As he writes:

One of the specous arguments against the Press Law is that Brazil is the nation with the most lawsuits against journalists. This is the case because Brazil is the country whose journalists engage in the most slander and defamation.

There may be some truth to that, although I do not know of any comparative studies on the subject. I can certainly think of plenty of anecdotal evidence to back the contention, though. Another factor: Brazil is an insanely litigious place in general.

On the other hand, civil suits seem to be working more effectively these days, though they get little publicity. See, for example

At any rate, I wanted to clip the argument to file. This is a fascinating debate because it is so foreign to the New York Times v. Sullivan standard one is familiar with back in the good old USSA.

The Sudden Death of the Press Law

By Bernardo Kucinski, Observatório da Imprensa, April 26, 2008; reproduced from Revista do Brasil No. 23, April 24, 2008

Brazil no longer has a Press Law. The Supreme Court, without waiting for Congress, struck down 20 of its 27 articles, among them the three most important ones -– 20, 21 and 23, which punish crimes of slander, defamation and injurious vituperation. This was the principal victory of a powerful campaign by media owners against the Press Law, supported by some compliant journalists and even by organizations that defend freedom of the press.

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CartaCapital: No Joy Over BrOI

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BrOI. Source: Convergência Digital

CartaCapital editorializes against the merger of Oi and Brasil Telecom.

The magazine has been an implacable foe of banker Daniel Dantas since he was indicted for wiretapping competitors, government officials and journalists, including journalists at the newsweekly edited by the serial Brazilian newsweekly founder, Mino Carta.

It is a byzantine affair that make the Hewlett-Packard corporate espionage case look like a case of mildly malicious gossip overheard by chance at the corporate water cooler.

Talvez ainda chegue o dia em que um prócer do Partido dos Trabalhadores proponha a inauguração de um busto do banqueiro Daniel Dantas em alguma praça importante do País. Não seria surpresa. Em nome dos “interesses nacionais”, que costuma justificar as maiores barbáries e falcatruas, o governo Lula prossegue incólume no propósito de patrocinar a compra da Brasil Telecom (BrT) pela Oi. É possível apontar muitos ganhadores nesta operação. Além de Dantas, os principais acionistas da Oi, Carlos Jereissati e Sérgio Andrade. Quanto aos interesses nacionais e os consumidores, restam dúvidas sobre quais vantagens levariam nesta.

The day may come when the Workers’ Party (PT) will propose putting up a bust of Daniel Dantas in some important public square here in Brazil. It would not be surprising. In the name of “national interests,” often used to justify the most heinous acts of barbarism and fraud, the Lula government remains steadfast in its intention to sponsor the sale of Brasil Telecom to Oi. There are many winners in this transaction, among them Dantas and the principal shareholders in Oi, Carlos Jereissati and Sérgio Andrade. As to the national interests and consumers, doubts remains about what advantages they will gain.

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BrOI: Done (Potential) Deal

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BrOI. Source: Convergência Digital

Oi conclui compra da Brasil Telecom por R$ 5,8 bilhões: Oi (the former Telemar) closes a contract to buy Brasil Telecom for R$5.8 billion (US$3.5 billion), if regulatory approval is obtained. The price represents a 32% premium on the average share price of BrT over the last 90 days.

Now for weeks of rumor-mongering on whether that approval will be forthcoming. Anatel commissioners have made favorable noises, and the government is said to favor the changes.

Minister of Communications Hélio Costa is quoted in the Folha de S. Paulo today saying “the government was a spectator” in the deal, but that his ministry has submitted a draft amendment to the PGO (the “general concessions plan” for telephony) to Anatel. It has been widely reported (charged) that the government was anything but a spectator in the deal. See

The competition regulator (CADE) also has to weigh in.

O contrato de compra de ações da Brasil Telecom foi fechado depois que a Oi/Telemar intermediou os conflitos entre os acionistas da empresa.

The agreement on the sale of BrT shares was signed after Oi brokered a settlement among BrT shareholders.

Essa intermediação resultou no pagamento, pela Telemar, de cerca de R$ 315 milhões numa espécie de indenização à BrT, para que ela pudesse abrir mão de ações movidas contra o Opportunity, acionista e ex-gestor da companhia.

The result was a payment by Oi/Telemar of nearly R$315 million as a kind of indemnification to BrT for dropping its lawsuits against Opportunity, a shareholder and former manager of the company.

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