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Election and Censorship Dialectics in the Brazilian Blogosphere

The first Brazilian electoral process witnessed by an active blogosphere is starting to show its unique role. As campaigns intensify throughout the country in the last month before election day, cases involving blog censorship have emerged. It seems that politicians are having a hard time understanding why they can't control information as they did previously. In a country where the historical alliance between media ownership and political influence has always managed to shape the narratives, blogs are starting to experience some success in giving visibility to alternative views.

xo sarneyAs reported here during the week, the picture of a painting on a wall in Macapá city, Amapá state, was enough to bring down the blog of Alcilene Cavalcante. The senate candidate José Sarney (a former Brazilian president) won in the Electoral Court on his first attempt against Alcilene. Her blog was brought down by its ISP [uol.com.br] even after complying and removing the picture. After accepting Sarney's lawyers first complaint against Alcilene's blog, the Electoral Court has denied a series of petitions aimed at putting down posts from Alcilene's sister Alcineia in her own blog which has been narrating the struggle. The whole story is putting the Brazilian blogosphere on fire, and is probably driving Sarney's lawyers crazy.

A coligação de Sarney já entrou com nove representações contra o blog de Alcinéa. Nas últimas, frisou: “É inaceitável que indivíduos que se dizem jornalistas armem uma longa teia de comunicação na internet para a prática de crimes”. A coligação acusa a rede de blogueiros de estar “organizada em prol de atingir a boa imagem do candidato”. Segundo a representação, os jornalistas “convocam eleitores e mais jornalistas e internautas a comporem esse bando, inclusive de outros países”. “É inaceitável que a disputa eleitoral seja maculada com tão abjeta nódoa.”
Blogs fazem campanha “xô Sarney”Folha Online

Sarney's party coalition has already filed nine legal presentations against Alcineia's blog. In the last ones, there is the statement: “It is unacceptable that individuals who call themselves journalists are able to build this long communication web in order to perform crimes”. The coalition is accusing the network of bloggers of being “organized to attack the candidate's image”. The legal presentations also mention that the journalists “call electors and other journalists and internauts to join the gang, also from other countries. It is unacceptable that the electoral dispute should be polluted by such abject dirt”.Blogs in campaign: “xô Sarney”Folha Online

Na sessão plenária desta terça-feira, o Plenário do Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) firmou entendimento de que a aplicação da Lei Eleitoral (Lei 9.504/97) não pode inibir princípios constitucionais como a liberdade de imprensa e a livre expressão do pensamento.
Linha direta com o AmapáRecanto do Velhinho-Rabugento

In Tuesday's plenary session, the Superior Electoral Court Justices reached the understanding that the application of Electoral Law (Law 9.504/97) cannot inhibit constitutional principles like freedom of the press and the free expression of thought.
In direct line with AmapáOld Man Hidding Place

Many bloggers started to follow the case and all the activity attracted the attention of Marcelo Tas, a TV journalist who writes a column-like blog in UOL's portal. Although managing to show his support to Alcinéia and amplifying the anti-censorship movement, he (conveniently) did not even mention that it was her sister Alcilene's blog that had been taken down by the same UOL, thus starting the whole issue. In a comment to Marcelo's blog Alcilene tried to call attention to the issue, but maybe he had already reached the limits imposed on a professional blogger. Nevertheless, the movement has already succeeded.

Marcelo, meu blog Repiquete no Meio do Mundo continua fora do ar. Olha que a UOl me informa: Após realizadas as verificações necessárias, informamos que não será possível a reativação do Blog http://alcilene.zip.net, pois sua remoção foi solicitada pelo Departamento Jurídico do provedor UOL.
Comentário de Alcilene Cavalcante , in Voto DeclaradoBlog do Tas

Marcelo, my blog ‘Repiquete no Meio do Mundo‘ is still down. Look what UOL tells me: ‘After making the necessary verifications, we inform that it will not be possible to reactivate the blog http://alcilene.zip.net. Its removal was solicited by the Legal Departament of UOL provider.’
Alcilene Cavalcante's comment , in Voto DeclaradoBlog do Tas

Xo Sarney T-ShirtAlém de dar publicidade nacional ao que só os macapenses que passavam em frente ao muro viram, as tentativas de censura de José Sarney à foto do muro transformaram a pichação na moda do momento. Já existe camiseta e adesivos para carro com o “Xô Sarney!”. E, não bastasse, a candidata ao senado pelo PSB, Cristina Almeida, estreante na política e desconhecida do eleitorado do Estado, já se aproxima de 30% das intenções de voto, cavalgando a onda de indignação que Sarney vem despertando.
Campanha Xô Sarney já circula por mais de cem blogs no paísJornal Pequeno

Beyond providing national publicity to something that only a small group of locals who pass by that wall would see, Sarney's attempts to censor the picture transformed the grafitti in a momentous fashion. There is already a t-shirt and sticks with the slogan ‘Xô Sarney!’. As if that wasn't enough, the senate candidate from PSB Cristina Almeida, a novice and unknown politician in Amapá state, is already reaching an unbelievable 30% in voter poll intentions, riding the indignation wave unleashed by Sarney.
Xô Sarney campaign is already circulating in more then a hundred blogs in the countryJornal Pequeno

Another Brazilian electoral scene is being significantly influenced by the web's free flow of information. In a spectacular turn of events in Brasilia, Brazil's national capital, a candidate for a deputy seat in Congress named Eri Varela divulged a recorded telephone call between himself and the city's former governor and now senate candidate Joaquim Roriz. In the 2 minute conversation, the powerful politician calls his ally and favorite gubernatorial candidate José Roberto Arruda, false, a vagabond and a liar. The recording was presented to more than 500 people and many journalists at the inauguration of Eri Varela's campaign committee, but Roriz reacted quickly and won a temporary injunction from the Electoral Court preventing media outlets from publishing a word about the case. The A-list blogger Ricardo Noblat was the one who planted the issue and the recording in the blogosphere.

O que leva jornais, em plena capital da República, a ignorarem um fato político relevante como esse? Ou não é relevante um ex-governador, em meio a uma campanha, aliado até outro dia de um candidato à sua sucessão, dizer o que Roriz disse sobre Arruda? (Veja aqui nota publicada abaixo.)…Temos uma imprensa atreladada a poderosos grupos políticos e econômicos e que a eles presta vassalagem em primeiro lugar. São eles que a sustentam – não os leitores. É por isso que esse tipo de imprensa pode se dar ao luxo de vender tão poucos exemplares. Ela atrai mais anúncios pelo que deixa de publicar do que pelo que publica.
Ganhando com o que ignoraBlog do Noblat

In the middle of the capital of the Republic, what makes the media ignore a political fact of such relevance? Or is it not relevant that an ex-governor, in the middle of a campaign, says the things Roriz said about Arruda, who until the other day was his ally and chosen successor. (See here a note published below)… The media corporations are imprisoned by the powerful political and economic groups, to whom they pay vassalage. Those are the ones who maintain them — not the readers. That's why this kind of press can still survive even selling so little. They attract more advertising for what they fail to publish than for what they publish.
Earning for what it ignoresBlog do Noblat

A liminar atingiu os jornais O Estado de S. Paulo, Folha de S. Paulo, O Globo, Correio Braziliense, as grandes redes de televisão e rádio e até a Rádio Verde-Oliva, que pertence ao Exército, toca apenas música e não se mete em política. A mesma censura atingiu a Rádio MEC, do Ministério da Educação, e a Rádio Justiça, do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF).
TRE-DF veta divulgação de conversa de Joaquim Roriz  – A Tarde Online

The injunction covered the newspapers ‘O Estado de São Paulo, Folha de S. Paulo, O Glogo, Correio Braziliense, the big TV and radio networks and even Olive-Green Radio, which is owned by the Army and only plays music, never deals with politics. The same censorship reached MEC Radio, from the Education Ministry, Federal Supreme Court's Justice Radio.
TRE-DF censors Roriz conversation  – A Tarde Online

Here in Brasilia nowadays, those plugged into the blogosphere are already having access to information which is not available through traditional channels. Watching the electoral propaganda on TV while simultaneously surfing the blogosphere can easily evoke the awareness of two very different campaign realities. The blogosphere is informed but the TV audience is not. So it doesn't seem that the recording has made much impact in voters yet. The media silence on the case has been effective in suppressing the network's viral effect. Noblat was constrained by his host's legal department and had to back off from publishing the audio file.

Today, there are several video versions of the ‘famous’ recording already published in Youtube and freely available. But we never now what kind of restrictions will come next. What is clear is that the independent and amateur bloggers are the ones who have the ability and desire to genuinely support net native freedom of speech. Professional bloggers, especially those who were trained as journalists and are sponsored by mainstream media corporations still have to play by the rules. Noblat seems to be very uncomfortable with the censorship of what he sees as ‘a right to information':

É a primeira vez em quase três anos que este blog foi censurado. Espero que a Justiça revogue a decisão que agride a liberdade de imprensa e o direito de vocês à informação. A mídia está proibida de divulgar o conteúdo da fita por decisão da Justiça que atendeu a um pedido de Roriz. Este blog divulgou o conteúdo da fita no último sábado à noite e novamente no domingo e na segunda-feira dado que não foi notificado até o presente momento para não fazê-lo. Ocorre que a empresa O Estado de S. Paulo foi notificada. E o blog está hospedado no portal do Estadão. Por orientação, pois, do Departamento Jurídico do jornal, vou tirar do ar a degravação da fita e o link dado para que vocês pudessem ouvir a conversa de 1 minuto e 54 segundos travada por Varela, advogado há mais de 20 anos de Roriz, com o próprio Roriz. Tentarei deixar no ar os comentários postados às notas.
Sairá do ar a fita onde Roriz fala mal de ArrudaBlog do Noblat

This is the first time in three years that this blog was censored. I hope that the court will review this decision that hurts the press freedom and your right to information. The media is prohibited from divulging the content of the recording by a decision of justice that attended Roriz. This blog published the recording last Saturday night, and again on Sunday and Monday. I was not notified at that time not to do it. It happens that ‘O Estado de São Paulo’ was notified. And the blog is hosted in ‘Estadão’ portal. Following the Legal Department's orientation, I am taking off the text version and the audio file I had published in order that you could listen to the 2 minute conversation held by Varela — lawyer to Roriz for 20 years — and the same Roriz. I will try to maintain the posted comments.
Recording where Roriz slams Arruda will be taken off – Blog do Noblat

A Justiça Eleitoral proibiu os jornais e sites de divulgarem a conversa telefonônica entre o ex-governador do DF, Joaquim Roriz, com o ex-presidente da Terracap e candidato a deputado federal Eri Varela. Só que tudo poder ser ouvido no site do YouTube, no endereço (http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=carlosbsbdf). Lá também pode ser encontrado o programa do PT em que se rememora o caso da violação do Painel Eletrônico do Senado, que levou o então senador José Roberto Arruda à renúncia. Com todo respeito a Justiça Eleitoral, a internet virou um território livre.
Caiu na redeCarlosHonorato.com.br

The Electoral Court prohibited sites and newspapers from publishing the telephone conversation between Joaquim Roriz, Brasilia's ex-Governor, and Terracap's ex-president and federal deputy candidate Eri Varela. But everything can be listened to there in Youtube at this address (http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=carlosbsbdf ) At Youtube you can also find the PT program recalling the case where Arruda violated the Senate Electronic Panel, which led the then senator to renounce the mandate. With all respect to the Electoral Court, the Internet has become a free territory.
Caiu na redeCarlosHonorato.com.br

The emerging truth that can be harvested by those who closely follow these events is that the political environment now has a new playing field. Meaningful variables of popular participation have emerged and must be included in the already complex equations politicians deal with at election time. These are just the first signs of a bigger and growing phenomenon. At this early point, Brazilian bloggers are still surprised by the power that can be exercised from their personal pulpits in the free digital environment.

For how long and to what degree will the web remain free? As the forces of light and dark, and of progress and order push against each other there will be a constant need to balance opposing interests and produce acceptable levels of security and predictability for all. We can expect to see new regulations and technologies limiting the completely free flow of information. The ‘geotargeted’ block recently implemented by the New York Times to prevent UK British public from reading a news article detailing the investigation into the recent alleged airline terror plot is a good example.

It will be natural for institutions to seek to maintain the controls they learned in the analog reality of past generations. Now that the digital generation is coming of age, great will be the opportunity for networked citizens to peer-review the bugs of the collective reality served to us by the mainstream media. Never was there a more urgent need for a vigilant and active blogosphere.

URGENT UPDATE: WE JUST RECEIVED NEWS FROM BLOGGER ALTINO MACHADO SAYING THAT UOL.COM.BR TOOK DOWN ALCINEIA'S BLOG. SHE HAS MOVED TO: http://alcinea.blig.ig.com.br/

UPDATE 2: As IG is a Brazilian blogging service, in order to avoid risks of being censored again Alcineia decided to move to http://alcineacavalcante.blogspot.com/.

14 comments

  • Very very good!
    Congratulations to all the Global Voices Online staff.
    Thank you so much.

  • […] Por favor, não visite nenhum dos endereços citados neste post. Nem tente acessar alguma coisa sobre a repercurssãointernacional ou nacional que isso teve. Você corre o risco da justiça federal achar que vocês está compactuando com pessoas de má índole, que falam mal dos nosso tão honestos e justos políticos brasileiros! […]

  • […] Sexta-feira, dia 1, em mais um flagrante atentado à liberdade de expressão, o blog de Alcinéa Cavalcante foi enfim tirado do ar. O fato repercute no exterior e faz com que o Brasil passe a se equivaler a países como China e Irã, que também possuem o hábito pouco edificante de censurar blogs por motivos políticos. Alcinéa não desiste de escrever e migra seu blog para um servidor no exterior, passando a postar na URL http://alcineacavalcante.blogspot.com. A campanha “Xô Sarney” alastra-se de vez pela blogosfera. […]

  • […] Global Voices has a long, interesting article on Censorship in the Brazilian blogosphere. […]

  • […] Parece que foi a foto que começou tudo, deixou o senador de bigodes em pé e culminou com a censura do blog da jornalista – só que agora é notícia no mundo todo. Vixe! É a blogosfera em ritmo de eleições. […]

  • This journalist had her blog truned off because she makes opposition against our ex-president, Jose Sarney. The Campaign “Xô Sarney”, where is inserted the image of the current ex-president and candidate to Senate, already is in hundreds of blogs of our country. But, as dictator, Sarney comes using of all the ways to keep the people in silent.
    Well, we need do something. I did. I wrote to some people, like OAB, and they desagree with Judge comments. Let´s wait. Maybe the blogosphere will help the people from Amapá.

  • Good job.
    “All we need is voice”.
    Congratulations!

  • In continue of facts, the things aren´t going to a good finish in Amapa. Take a look at Journalist Alcinea´s blog. Nor the Constitution get respect there. Till when????

  • […] A quick review of previous Global Voices’ posts about Brazil will convincingly shows why we say that the local blogosphere is one of the hottest firing lines in the push for digital liberties. Starting from the blocking of blogs by the Electoral Justice System during the last elections (Election and Censorship Dialectics in the Brazilian Blogosphere), and the voting of a bill in Congress that would require identification for any web action involving interactivity (Holding the line for Internet freedoms in Brazilian Cyberspace), to the latest scandal that blocked YouTube access in the country (Cicarelli Case: Censorship and Boycott Dialectics in the Brazilian Blogosphere), the world is getting accustomed to hearing about Internet battles in Brazil. It is becoming an endless clash of real world institutions against the YOU of the virtual environment. Yes, YOU, the Time magazine 2006 person of the year. […]

  • […] As soon as the information about the verdict circulated on the net, Portuguese posts commenting the 4 year in prison sentence given to blogger Abdel Kareem Suleiman started to appear. Brazilian bloggers sensitiveness about any situation involving censorship is a direct consequence of the many recent attacks to their freedoms on the Internet, as showed by previous GV reports here, here, here, and also here. That’s why they are ever ready to take a stance and fight to maintain a status they believe they’ve already conquered for themselves. In addition, Kareem’s case brings in some reflexions about how different might be the Arab culture in relation to the freedom notions Brazilians are now practicing through blogging. […]

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