The Brazilian blogosphere was rocked on June 17th by a blatant attempt of censorship over the blog Os Amigos do Presidente Lula [The Friends of President Lula, pt] from the Public Electoral Ministry, who asked that the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) removed the blog from the Internet after it published a public report, which was considered offensive to the opposition presidential candidate, José Serra.
Blogger Brizola Neto adds [pt] more information that matched the tone of his indignation:
O Ministério Público Eleitoral passou de todos os limites em matéria de arbitrariedade e parcialidade em sua atuação neste período de pré-campanha eleitoral. Segundo o Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, a Procuradoria Eleitoral pediu a retirada do ar do blog “Amigos do Presidente Lula” pelo fato deste noticiar que um relatório da união de bancos suíços considera significativa possibilidade de Dilma Rousseff ganhar eleição no primeiro turno em “razão do desejo do eleitor de manter as coisas como estão e do fato de ela ser associada como candidata da continuidade”.
Ora, a mesma informação foi publicada pelo jornal O Estado de S. Paulo no dia 4 de Junho deste ano. E foi publicada porque é notícia. E se é notícia, não deve ser escondida das pessoas. E muito menos o MPE tem o direito de escolher que este site tem o direito a publicá-la e aquele outro não tem.
A atitude do Ministério Público Eleitoral é discricionária, mesmo na alegação de que há críticas a Serra.
The Public Electoral Ministry (MPE) crossed all arbitrariness and partiality limits, during its performance in this pre-election campaign. According to the Superior Electoral Court, the Electoral Prosecutor requested the withdrawal from the internet of the blog “Os Amigos do Presidente Lula” because it announced that a report from the Union of Swiss banks considered that there is a significant possibility of Dilma Rousseff winning the election in the first round, due to the “desire of the voter to keep things as they are and the fact that she is perceived as a candidate of continuity “.
However, the same information was published by the newspaper O Estado de São. Paulo on June 4th this year. And it was published because it is news. And if it is news, then it should not be hidden from the people. The MPE does not have the right to choose what this site can or cannot publish.
The attitude of the Public Electoral Ministry is discretionary, even on the claim that there is criticism to Serra.
Censorship in the Brazilian blogsphere is an extremely sensitive issue. Between 1964 and 1985 Brazil was under a brutal Military Dictatorship where censorship was legal and private opinions were punished with prison, torture, and sometimes death.
As the presidential elections of 2010 approach, the siege tightens. With the new controversial electoral reform in Brazil established by Senator Azeredo (PSDB) [pt], bloggers are now very restricted in their ability to analyse candidates’ positions (Global Voices has published before on the matter, asking whether a free Internet has really appeared on the electoral scene). These control initiatives in Brazil were termed “AI5Digital“, referring to the Institutional Act Number 5 (AI5), created by the military regime in 1968 that officially instituted censorship as state policy (among other immediate effects).
Many bloggers have been censored in the past due to their opinions and for positioning themselves against mass media opinions, as it's the case of Antônio Arles (@aarles), censored [pt] at the end of 2009, or the case of Carlinhos Medeiros, censored for criticizing the tendencious opinion [pt] of a journalist connected to the mass media, also at the end of 2009.
Regarding the Os Amigos do Presidente Lula censorship case, Antônio Arles (@Aarles) calls for “broad, universal and unrestricted” online freedom. He makes his position clear on Twitter [pt]:
At last, there's some people really upset with the free expression of thought by “Ordinary citizens” in the net
Luiz Carlos Azenha, from the blog Vi o Mundo [I Saw the World, pt] goes further and affirms that the TSE does not understand the blogsphere . According to Azenha, the TSE does not know its own limits claiming that those blogs hosted abroad are not under the tribunal's jurisdiction:
O Tribunal Superior Eleitoral quer controlar a blogosfera. O tribunal entende (entende?) que pode determinar o que é ou não é campanha antecipada na blogosfera.
O erro do TSE está em acreditar que a blogosfera pode ser engarrafada, sob o comando de Brasília. Sugiro aos blogueiros que se sentirem prejudicados — sejam do PT, do PSDB ou do PCdoB — que estabeleçam seus blogs em Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Bogotá ou Miami.
Será que o TSE tem jurisdição lá?
The Superior Electoral Court wants to control the blogsphere. The court considers (understands?) that can determine what is or is not an anticipated campaign in the blogsphere.
TSE's mistake is to believe that the blogsphere can be bottled under the command of Brasilia [Brazil's capital city]. I suggest that bloggers who feel harmed – beeing from PT [Workers Party], PSDB [Brazilian Social-Democrat Party] or PCdoB [Communist Party of Brazil] – to establish their blogs in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bogota or Miami.
Does the TSE has jurisdiction there?
In response, Antônio Arles agrees [pt]:
Another blog in the same situation is also a supporter of Dilma's candidacy, to succeed Lula. This is the “Blog da Dilma” [Dilma's Blog], who is accused [pt] of praising the candidate and asking for financial help for the campaign, to what the blog responds and makes it clear on its home page [pt] that only the editors are responsible for the blog's content and that they have no ties with any political parties.
The blogsphere and twittersphere have already begun to organize against what they consider an absurd censorship coming from the electoral tribunal, either through posts directly repudiating [pt] censorship or through clearly defending [pt] a candidate in defiance of the court and the public prosecutor.
Brizola Neto, does not even consider the issue a “challenge”, he considers it a right [pt]:
Agir em nome da lei é proteger os direitos do povo; agir contra o direito de qualquer cidadão de manifestar sua opinião, sua preferência, inclusive eleitoral, é agir contra os direitos do povo.
Movements against censorship and a solidarity network for the protection of the blogosphere have been launched along the web, such as blogs Mega Não [Mega No, pt] and Xô Censura [Bye Censorship, pt].Marcelo Branco leaves a suggestion inciting to action:
@MarceloBranco: Blogueir@s e tuiteir@s, que tal organizarmos um flashmob pela liberdade de expressao na rede?