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Freelance US journalist sued for defamation in Brazil

September 27th, 2009
AFP/ Brazilian Air Force-HO – This picture released by Brazilian Air Force in October 2006 shows the wreckage of the Boeing 737/800 …

AFP/ Brazilian Air Force-HO – This picture released by Brazilian Air Force in October 2006 shows the wreckage of the Boeing 737/800 …

A freelance US journalist who was on a business jet involved in a mid-air collision with a Brazilian airliner three years ago said Friday that he has been sued for defamation in Brazil.

Joe Sharkey, who has written for The New York Times and other publications, said in an article published on the website of Editor and Publisher magazine that he was served with notice of the lawsuit last week.

Sharkey was a passenger on the business jet which collided at 37,000 feet (11,280 meters) on September 29, 2006 with a Boeing 737, killing all 154 people aboard the Brazilian airliner.

Sharkey and the six other people aboard the business jet survived after making an emergency landing in the jungle.

He said the lawsuit against him concerned a personal blog he maintained and television and radio interviews he conducted about the accident.

Sharkey said the plaintiff was a Brazilian citizen and a widow of one of the victims aboard the Brazilian plane.

He said the suit is based on a Brazilian law that allows any citizen to claim damages for an alleged insult to the dignity or honor of Brazil in any case involving a crime.

The American pilots of the business jet have been charged with criminal negligence in Brazil and are being tried in absentia.

Sharkey said the complaint takes issues with his defense of the American pilots in his interviews with media outlets and on his personal blog.

It seeks apologies in the New York Times and on all of the TV and radio outlets that interviewed him, he said.

In the article, Sharkey acknowledged defending the American pilots saying they were “clearly being scapegoated in an intensely anti-American atmosphere in the Brazilian media and public arena.”

He said he has been “vilified” in Brazil and had received a “barrage of hate e-mails and even death threats.”

A Brazilian air force investigation concluded that errors by the US pilots and Brazilian air traffic controllers were to blame, resulting in the business jet being at the same altitude as the Boeing.

A probe by the US National Transportation Safety Board put most of the blame on Brazilian air traffic control.


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