This is a guest blog entry from Paul Martins, the coordinator of ARTICLE 19 Brazil. For more information, please contact Rebecca Vincent at: paula [ at ] article19 [ dot ] org.
Brazilian freedom of expression groups, including ARTICLE 19, are organizing a campaign in support of brother bloggers Lino and Mario Bocchini, who have been sued by the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo due to the content disseminated on-line on their blog Falha de Sao Paulo. The Brazilian judiciary issued a provisional decision in the case filed against the blog, ordering its removal from the internet. The blog has been under what the brothers call “censorship” for almost 80 days now. The lawsuit may result in the payment of indemnification for moral damages in an amount to be defined by the judging magistrate, at its discretion.
During 2010 Brazilian electoral campaign, bloggers Lino and Mário Ito Bocchini created Falha de Sao Paulo, a blog dedicated to humour, political satire and journalism. The word “falha” means “failure” in Portuguese. The blog draws on photomontage, jokes and other blog posts to satirise the work of the popular daily newspaper Folha.
The blog was clearly created as a parody, in the same vein as previous media outlets, including the magazine Bundas (“Asses”) and Caras (“Faces”), which were broadly disseminated in newsstands all over the country in the 90’s.
The newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, however, decided to sue the bloggers on the grounds that they were making unlawful use of a registered brand. According to the newspaper’s lawyers, the blog was seeking to profit from the confusion of internet users, who may mistake the blog for the official Folha de Sao Paulo websitewhen logging onto the site.
The blog, however, has no commercial purpose and carries no advertisement. The domain was registered under the bloggers’ names. The newspaper argued that the bloggers acted in bad faith in order to take advantage of the newspaper’s brand and reputation. These arguments are without any basis given the type of articles and other distinctive content found on the blog.
ARTICLE 19 believes the arguments raised by Folha de Sao Paulo in the lawsuit lack any merit and are advanced in a case which is clearly aimed at stifling any comments posted by the bloggers which are critical of the newspaper.
Through a provisional measure issued by a Sao Paulo judge, the blog has now been removed from the internet and the bloggers are forbidden to use the domain falhadesaopaulo.com.br. In the next stage of the case, the court will consider whether the brothers are liable to pay damages for moral harm caused to the newspaper.
ARTICLE 19 notes that there are no clear rules to determine the amount of damages to be awarded in such cases. Furthermore, there are no rules at all establishing an upper limit for the amount of damages to be awarded.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Brazilian judiciary to consider Brazil’s international legal obligations on the right to freedom of expression and dismiss the case on the grounds that the bloggers were merely exercising their freedom to express their views and ideas on the work of the newspaper. Folha, as a media outlet that has been publicly defending freedom of press for many years, should adopt a more tolerant behaviour in relation to its critics.