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Internet censorship in Brazil

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Internet censorship in Brazil

Censorship in Brazil, both cultural and political, occurred throughout the whole period following the colonization of the country. Even though most state censorship ended just before the period of redemocratization that started in 1974, Brazil still experiences a small amount of non-official noncensorship today. The current legislation restricts freedom of expression concerning Neo-Nazism (Paim Law) and the Constitution prohibits the anonymity of journalists,[1] although freedom of speech is enforced.

Freedom of speech and the press

Brazilian law enforces freedom of speech and press, and the authorities generally respect these rights in practice. The independent media are active and express a wide variety of views with no restriction, but nongovernmental criminal elements continue to subject journalists to violence because of their professional activities. A growing number of cases of judicial censorship of the media pose a serious threat to press freedom.[2] Brazilian law states that "material deemed offensive to a certain party may be removed if said party enters judicial action". However, this is sometimes exploited by companies and government officials, whom the law sometimes favors.

The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) reports cases of imprisonment, aggression, censorship, and failure to respect freedom of the press. Between January 1 and July 26, 2011, the ANJ reported 23 cases of censorship, threats, direct violence against journalists, and other forms of pressure against news organizations and professionals, including three killings, one imprisonment, six cases of censorship, and nine instances of verbal assault and physical battery,[2] though those were reportedly not practised by the Brazilian government, but by criminal organizations.

Internet freedom

There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet or credible reports that the government monitors e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups can engage in the expression of views via the Internet, including by e‑mail. A continuing trend is for private individuals and official bodies to take legal action against Internet service providers and providers of online social media platforms, such as Google, Facebook, and Orkut, holding them accountable for content posted to or provided by users of the platform. Judicial rulings often result in the forced removal of content from the Internet.[2]

Brazil is not individually classified by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), but is included in the ONI regional overview for Latin America.[3]

Brazilian legislation restricts the freedom of expression (Paim Law), directed especially to publications considered racist (such as neo-nazi sites). The Brazilian Constitution also prohibits anonymity of journalists.[1]

In March 2009, Chamber President Michel Temer ordered TV Câmara to remove a video of a debate from its website in which CartaCapital journalist Leandro Fortes criticized Gilmar Mendes' tenure as Court President.[4] Many viewed this as political censorship and the video was soon posted on YouTube.[5] After being denounced for censorship by the country's main bodies representing journalists, TV Câmara has uploaded the debate back to its website.[4]

In September 2012 an elections court in Brazil ordered the arrest of Google’s most senior executive in the country, after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a local mayoral candidate. The stringent 1965 Electoral Code bans campaign ads that “offend the dignity or decorum” of a candidate, although critic is, notably, permitted. Google is appealing the order, which might be decided after a similar decision by another Brazilian elections judge. In that case, the judge found a different senior executive responsible for violating local election law after the company refused to take down a YouTube video mocking a mayoral candidate. That decision was overturned by another judge who wrote that “Google is not the intellectual author of the video, it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.”[6]



In 1986, during Brazil's military dictatorship, the federal government banned Jean-Luc Godard's 1985 film Hail Mary, claiming that it was an insult to the Christian faith (although the State was officially secular).[7] Singer Roberto Carlos, a devout Catholic, deliberately damaged his image with liberal sectors of Brazilian society when he supported the ban by the José Sarney administration.[8] With the new Brazilian Constitution and redemocratization of the country, in the 1990s, the film was made available again.[9]


In 1994, just a day before the premiere of the British documentary Beyond Citizen Kane at the Rio de Janeiro Modern Art Museum, the Military Police confiscated the copy of the film, obeying a court warrant. The film takes a critical approach towards the establishment of Rede Globo, the largest television broadcaster in the country, explaining its ties to the military dictatorship. Globo's attempt to restrict the film, however, proved to be a failure with the Internet boom in the 2000s. On 20 August 2009, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that Rede Record bought the broadcasting rights to the documentary for less than US$ 20,000. This happened after a series of mutual attacks between Globo and Rede Record because of an investigation conducted by the Public Ministry against Edir Macedo and other high profile members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Macedo has been the owner of Rede Record since 9 November 1989. The network is waiting official authorization of the Justice system to broadcast the film.

The song "Luís Inácio (300 Picaretas)" by rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso, issued on their 1995 album Vamo Batê Lata, was banned in the Federal District. The song alludes to a statement made by Brazilian Ex-PresidentLuiz Inácio Lula da Silva in which he said that the Chamber of Deputies is formed by 300 bastards and a minority of honest men. Songwriter Herbert Vianna explicitly denounces deputies João Alves de Almeida and Genebaldo Correia, as well as Senator Humberto Lucena. Deputy Bonifácio Andrada of the Brazilian Labour Party of Minas Gerais, outraged with the song, managed to ban it from a concert the band would perform in Brasília on 23 June 1995 on the basis the song was offensive to an electoral candidate, even though it was not in their set list for that day. Other deputies joined Andrada in his crusade against the song, but it was ultimately banned only from radio airplay. The controversy and media surrounding it has helped the Paralamas make a comeback.[10] In April 2003, the band received honorary citizenship from Brasília and played the song to all members of the Chamber of Deputies.


In 2001 the Agência Nacional do Cinema (Ancine) was created, and in 2003 it became the regulatory agency of the Brazilian movie industry. The agency has banned 3 titles that did not qualify into any age rating due to extreme pornographic scenes, child pornographic scenes and extreme gore.

In 2003, when Senator Eduardo Azeredo of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party of Minas Gerais proposed a bill to curb digital crimes (known as "the digital AI-5"), he was heavily criticized by Internet users, who felt that it would force Internet Service Providers to act as watchdogs, since they would have the legal obligation to denounce possible illegal activities.

In 2005, the rock band Bidê ou Balde faced legal problems after the release of their song "E Por Que Não?" (And Why Not?) on the MTV Brasil special album Acústico MTV Bandas Gaúchas (MTV Acoustic Bands Gaúchas). The song was seen by some as encouraging incest. After several lawsuits from women's and children's right organizations, MTV felt pressured to re-release the album without the track and to stop showing its music video. The lyrics of the song, however, can still be found on the Internet.[11]

In February 2007, two court cases were settled whan an agreement was reached that all copies of the book Roberto Carlos em Detalhes, an unauthorized biography of singer Roberto Carlos by journalist Paulo César de Araújo, would be repurchased from bookstores.[12] The singer's attempt to censor the book proved to be a failure, since copies can be easily found on the Internet.[13]

On 18 January 2008, a court order prohibited the sale of the games Counter-Strike and EverQuest in Brazil, arguing that they were extremely violent.[14] The move has been described by media as a publicity stunt on the regulation of video game violence and sexually explicit content, and also as a hasty decision that ignored much more violent games. As all versions of Counter-Strike were very popular in Brazil at the time, the decision was met with considerable uproar by the Brazilian gaming community. The game's developer Valve did not comment on the episode. However, on 18 June 2009, a regional federal court order lifting the ban of Counter-Strike was published.[15]

On 22 September 2008, Minas Gerais PSDB attempted to censor a documentary about censorship: "Gagged in Brazil", by Daniel Florencio.[16] The short film elucidates the imbrication between politics and media in the state of Minas Gerais, where the media only conveyed news favorable to the state government, censoring journalists that were critical of governor Aécio Neves.[17]

On 30 July 2009, Fernando Sarney, son of former President and Senator José Sarney, obtained a favorable decision from the Federal District Court of Justice that kept the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo from publishing stories about a criminal investigation conducted by the Federal Police against him.,[18] as Brazilian law prohibits disclosure of the status of criminal investigations before they are concluded. Later that year, the Supreme Federal Court rejected a suit by the newspaper seeking to overturn the ruling, thus maintaining the information unavailable.[19] The NGO Reporters Without Borders called the Supreme Court decision "incomprehensible" and "dangerous."[20] After the investigation was finished, and Fernando Sarney was charged for his crimes, the censored information was released to the public.


In 2010 Google reported that Brazil was the country with most requests from its government to take down content. In the same year a law was approved that banned political satire on election years.

On 9 August 2011, the Federal Justice of Minas Gerais blocked the distribution of A Serbian Film, a 2010 Serbian horror film, in Brazil. This was the first time a movie was banned in Brazil since the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution. The previously banned film, Je vous salue, Marie a 1985 French film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard that retells of the story of a virgin birth, was banned in 1986.[21] As of 2012 this decision has been overturned and the film given a "not recommended for those under the age of 18, due to depictions of sex, pedophilia, violence and cruelty" rating.[22][23]

In September 2012 an elections court in Brazil ordered the arrest of Fábio José Silva Coelho, Google’s most senior executive in the country, after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a local mayoral candidate. The stringent 1965 Electoral Code bans campaign ads that “offend the dignity or decorum” of a candidate. Google is appealing the order, which comes after a similar decision by another Brazilian elections judge. In that case, the judge found a different senior executive responsible for violating local election law after the company refused to take down a YouTube video mocking a mayoral candidate. That decision was overturned by another judge who wrote that “Google is not the intellectual author of the video, it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.” Google also defended users’ political rights saying "that voters have a right to use the Internet to freely express their opinions about candidates for political office, as a form of full exercise of democracy, especially during electoral campaigns”.[6]


Rede Globo

Rede Globo, the largest telenovela producer of the country, is known to have practiced self-censorship on at least two occasions.

According to Afro-Brazilian actor Tony Tornado, in a statement for the 2000 documentary A Negação do Brasil which denounces racism on the Brazilian television, three final sequences were shot for the 1985 telenovela Roque Santeiro, which drew a record-breaking audience. In two of them, the protagonist Porcina (Regina Duarte) ended up with white characters (Lima Duarte or José Wilker) and in the other, she ended up with Tornado's character Rodésio. Globo's press office, however, reported that just two final sequences had been shot; with Porcina ending up with one of the white characters. According to Tornado, the third sequence was banned by the head of the network.

Rede Record

Rede Record was criticized for censoring the 2009 telenovela Poder Paralelo. The head of the network vetoed author Lauro César Muniz, who claimed to have left Globo due to the lack of artistic freedom), and director Ignácio Coqueiro from writing and directing scenes featuring thighs, breasts, buttocks and coarse language. Although the head of the network claimed the scenes were being cut so that the program could receive a TV-14 classification, scenes containing deep violence were not removed. This resulted in bad reviews for the network, already known for its aestheticization of violence.


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