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Brazil Congress Ignores Court Order to Hand Over Expenses List

October 2nd, 2009

folha_front_pageDaily newspaper Folha de S. Paulo has filed a Writ of Security with Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) against the House of Representatives and the Senate, requesting that they hand over documents that show parliamentarians’ expenses. The STF previously ruled in favor of the newspaper, but it still has not obtained access to the documents in question.

According to the STF decision, House of Representatives president Michel Temer must give the Folha da Manhã company, which controls the Folha, access to the requested information, which is considered public.

In the case of the Senate, it has alleged that the parliamentarians’ information is confidential and should be protected. The court order has gone from minister to minister without any final decision, the Folha de S. Paulo stated in an editorial.

An April 1st House of Representatives resolution obliges all parliamentarians to provide a detailed listing online of certain monthly work-related expenses, such as telephone and taxi bills. The documents the newspaper is requesting cover the period from September to December 2008.

The House of Representatives and Senate have resisted handing over the documents from the period preceding April 1st on the premise that they are confidential. But, according to the newspaper, the expenses they are seeking information on are only those directly related to the members’ parliamentary work.

Amends to Murdered Journalist’s Family

Bahia state, in the Brazilian Northeast, has announced that it will compensate murdered journalist Manoel Leal’s family with 100,000 Brazilian reais (US$ 56,000). Leal was murdered in 1998, in the city of Itabuna.

The announcement was made on 21 September 2009 by Governor Jaques Wagner in a ceremony that recognized the state’s responsibility in the case.

The governor noted that the discussion about the role of the state in acts of violence is a controversial topic, but said that, in this case, the state was making a gesture that demonstrates its concern over the harm caused by political persecution.

The compensation and the ceremony were recommendations issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS), which considered Bahia State to be responsible for the crime because it failed to guarantee the journalist’s safety or properly investigate the crime.

This is the first time that a Brazilian state has implemented a recommendation issued by the IACHR to make reparations for a journalist’s death because it failed to guarantee his security.

Leal was shot six times while opening the gate to his house in Itabuna. The journalist was killed one month after he started publishing a series of reports denouncing irregularities in then former mayor Geraldo Simões’ government. Leal was the owner of the “A Região” newspaper, which opposed the government of Fernando Gomes, the mayor in power at the time of the assassination.

Although several people accused of the crime have been arrested so far, it remains unsolved. Leal’s son, Marcel, said that one of the perpetrators of the crime was arrested, but that those who gave the orders for the murder still need to be identified.

Reporter Attacked

Reporter Rafael Dias was assaulted on the night of September 28 at the entrance of the newspaper Diário de Pernambuco, where he works, in Recife, capital of Pernambuco state. The assailants were two men who have identified themselves as councilman Luiz Vidal’s sons, who died on 26 September. Rafael was punched, resulting in bleeding and bruises to his mouth and a broken tooth.

The Vidal family has voiced discontent with a report published by the “Diário de Pernambuco” prior to Vidal’s burial. They claimed that the report was “irresponsible” in revealing the possible reason for the politician’s death.

Dias disagrees and believes that the attack cannot be justified. “Even if there was a journalistic mistake, nothing justifies a physical aggression. It was a cowardly action not only against a professional, but also against freedom of expression and press freedom”, he said.

Since the attack, Dias has been on medical leave and has been escorted by the newspaper’s security guards. “I am worried about my safety, because the two assailants have threatened me since the assault and they know where I work,” said Dias.

The journalist has lodged a complaint and an inquiry was opened at the Santo Amaro Police Office in Recife. Dias has also undergone tests at the IML (Medical Legal Institute) and the results will be available within ten days.

The case will be investigated by police station Distrito da Boa Vista. “I am also studying the possibility of filing a legal action for moral damages,” says Dias.

Journalists Threatened

On September 20, a news team working for the daily A Tarde was threatened when it was covering a fire in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of the city of Salvador, in the state of Bahia, northeastern Brazil.

Reporter Flávio Costa, photographer Fernando Amorim and the driver of their vehicle were attacked by six armed men who struck their car’s windows to scare them away from the area. The men threatened to shoot them.

The incident took place nine days after an attack against police stations and public transport buses that followed the transfer of a renowned drug trafficker.

The journalists filed a formal complaint regarding the incident at the local police station.

http://www.brazzilmag.com


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