Brazil: A day in jail for blog comments

Interrupting his blogging holidays, police officer Alexandre de Sousa [pt] posts in solidarity with Major Roberto Cavalcante Vianna, the first Brazilian citizen jailed for commenting on a blog:

Fui aluno do Major Roberto Vianna no Curso de Formação de Oficiais. Era meu instrutor de Direitos Humanos. Pessoa íntegra, estudioso de Segurança Pública, exemplo. Sua transgressão grave foi assinar um comentário se solidarizando com o Major Wanderby, denunciado por indisciplina na Auditoria Militar da PM. Punição de prisão! 12 dias preso por comentar em um blog! Caro Major Vianna, Gostaria de apoiá-lo neste momento cruel e de gosto duvidoso! Continue firme na sua caminhada. Não esmoreça. A sua arma mais forte é a sua determinação. Cumprimentos daquele que te admira muito e que aprendeu muito com o senhor.

I was Major Roberto Vianna's student in the [Police] Officer Training Course. He was my Human Rights instructor. An honest person, a Public Security scholar, an example. His serious transgression was a comment in which he sympathized with Major Wanderby, denounced for indiscipline in a Military Audit of the Military Police. Jail punishment! 12 days trapped for commenting on a blog! Dear Major Vianna, I would like to show you support at this cruel moment of doubtful taste! Please remain firm on your path. Don't wilt. Your strongest weapon is your determination. Greetings from someone who admires you greatly and who has learned a lot from you.

At the heart of the trouble is another police Major and blogger, Wanderby Medeiros [pt], who informs us in one of his latest posts that Major Roberto Vianna was jailed on October 07 initially for 12 days, but he was freed the day after due to a habeas corpus. In an earlier post, he explains further Vianna's error:

Roberto Vianna fez um comentário não apócrifo no blog de um cidadão que se opõe às nefastas políticas “públicas” de Sérgio Cabral, José Mariano Beltrame e companhia!
Vianna exerceu um direito constitucional!

Roberto Vianna made a non-apocryphal comment on the blog of a citizen who is against the harmful “public” policies of [Rio Governor] Sergio Cabral, [Public Safety State Secretary] Jose Mariano Beltrame and company!
Vianna was exercising a constitutional right!

Journalist Gustavo de Almeida [pt], the only non-police blogger in this article, although many other civilians have commented on the issue, digs out the actual comment that caused the order, a message of solidarity for Major Wanderby with a criticism of the way the police force has been led in Rio de Janeiro:

A quem serve o Comando Geral de quaisquer instituições ? Quando alguém assume tal nobre função, não o faria para zelar por todos nós? Zelar por todos nós não incluiria combater a corrupção em todos os seus segmentos?

Who does the general command of any institution serve? When someone takes on such a noble task, shouldn't they ensure that they do so for all of us? Shouldn't fighting corruption in all its forms be a way to look after us?

Stive [pt], on the other hand, investigates and uncovers the news that most of the punishment that has fallen on Major Wanderby is for posting on blogs, his own blog being one of the most popular and commented on among police officers. He says this is lamentable:

O major Wanderby é um dos pouquíssimos oficiais superiores que NÃO se omite diante de tanta sacanagem injustiça e ele manifesta isso em seu blog, que tem sido visto pelos olhos do alto comando como subversivo, incompatível para sua função. Não é de se estranhar que a maioria dos blogs policiais de protestos o autor prefira não mostrar a cara, afinal quem vai querer ser punido pelo comandante geral como já aconteceu com o major três vezes.

Major Wanderby is one of very few senior officers who do NOT keep silent in the face of so much skulduggery injustice and he shows this on his blog, which has been deemed by the high command as subversive, and incompatible with his position. It is not surprising that in most protest blogs by police officers the authors prefer not show their face, after all who wants to be punished by the general commander, as has happened three times with the Major?

Mônica [pt] believes the police regulation which disallows officers expressing their opinions the way they see fit is archaic and from the era of dictatorship, and wonders what might happen to a less senior officer:

O caso acima é com oficiais superiores, imaginem o que acontece com a gente. Prender um oficial superior por expressar sua opinião não é ilegal? Não fere o que diz nossa constituição? Ainda nos criticam por não colocarmos a cara aqui!

The case above regards senior officers, imagine what could happen with us. Isn't it illegal arresting a high ranking officer because he expressed his opinions? Doesn't it go against what our constitution says? And some criticize us for not putting our face here!

José Ricardo [pt] says he favors freedom of speech, despite the fact he doesn't exercise it himself. He avoids commenting further on the Major's imprisonment, but leaves a piece of advice for his readers:

Portanto, companheiro, cuidado com o que você diz na caixa de comentários dos blogs.

So, mate, be careful what you say in blogs’ comment boxes.

Despite the fact that they are not allowed to, these officials have been strongly opposing the current government. Major Wanderby was one of the organizers of a movement claiming a better wage for the police – a newly recruited police officer earns $500 a month. They blame the low wages and appalling working conditions of so high a risk job as the causes for the collapse of the Brazilian military and corruption among officers. According to a U.N. Human Rights Council report released last September 15, the Brazilian police is linked to 1 in 5 murders in Rio de Janeiro.

Even though under tremendous pressure not to publicly speak out or criticize the Brazilain police force or government, more and more police officers of all ranks, anonymously and not, have been using blogs as a tool to inform and mobilize. See a previous article on the subject.


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