Brazil: Fábio Pannunzio’s blog – from censorship to shutdown
The journalist Fábio Pannunzio announced the death of his blog, O Blog do Pannunzio, on 26 September 2012. By shutting down his online showcase on his own initiative amid harassment by the courts, he took judicial censorship to its logical conclusion.
It continues to be risky for a Brazilian journalist or blogger to tackle sensitive stories such as corruption, drug trafficking or police abuses. A reporter and presenter on the national TV station Bandeirantes, Pannunzio specializes in public security issues and he did not hesitate to report alleged abuses by the São Paulo civilian and military police either on the air or on his blog, which he began in 2009.
Sued only once in connection with his TV work, he was sued eight times as a blogger. On 5 September 2012, he was subjected to so-called “preventive” censorship, under which a single judge, before examination of the substance of the case, can order a blog or news outlet to remove information even though it is available through other outlets.
Pannunzio had already angered the São Paulo authorities in February 2012 when he posted a report, accompanied by a video, about the humiliating treatment of a young female civilian police officer by male colleagues. Suspected of stealing money and hiding it on her person, she was subjected to a body search in public despite demanding her right to be searched in private by a female police officer.
In an article posted on 17 June 2012, Pannunzio accused São Paulo state public security secretary Antônio Ferreira Pinto of covering up serious human rights violations by the São Paulo military police, especially during operations to “pacify” favelas. He cited the case of a man allegedly executed by police officers simply because he was suspected of being a member of Primeiro Comando da Capital (an urban guerrilla group formed in the city of São Paulo during the military dictatorship that evolved into a criminal organization after democracy was restored in 1985).
Pannunzio’s article accused Ferreira Pinto not only of covering up this case but also of turning a blind eye to the creation of “militias” within that police that operate as uncontrolled death squads responsible for human rights violations as grave as those by criminal gangs. He also cited death threats against several journalists including himself that are thought to have been made by corrupt members of the civilian police.
The article was headlined “Geraldo Alckmin’s inaction on public security barbarity” because it blamed the situation on São Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin, Lula’s unsuccessful rival in the 2006 presidential race. Noting that Alckmin had failed to explain why he removed 32 police and soldiers assigned to protecting the governor’s palace, Pannunzio reported that they were said to have been spying on him.
Ferreira Pinto responded to the article by bringing both civil and criminal defamation proceedings against Pannunzio. Just three months after the article was posted, São Paulo civil court judge Jacira Jacinto ordered its removal from O Blog do Pannunzio before any court decision on its defamatory nature, and said failure to comply or any republication or reposting of the article would be subject to a fine of 80,000 réais (40,000 dollars).
As the court order was disproportionate and was issued without hearing defence arguments and without examining the substance of the article, Reporters Without Borders has decided to publish both the article and the order. Reporters Without Borders takes no position on the substance of the lawsuit against Pannunzio, but condemns this form of judicial censorship, which is widely used in Brazil and imposes grave constraints on the free flow of information.
Geraldo Alckmin’s inaction on public security barbarity
It’s not just strange, it’s incomprehensible that Governor Geraldo Alckmin has not yet fired his public security secretary, Antônio Ferreira Pinto, both because of the barbarity that has taken hold within the military police under his command and because of the authoritarian, undemocratic and illegal methods he has been using until now.
By his explicit support for use of excessive violence, his actions deliberately designed to excuse police officers accused of the most serious crimes and his inaction in the face of the creation of militias by military police officers, Mr. Ferreira Pinto is exposing the entire state’s population to the ferocity of the criminal organization known as the Primeiro Comando de la Capital (PCC) as well as uniformed bandits protected by the Military Police. The dramatic rise in the (supposedly manipulated) crime figures is there for all to gauge the scale of the prevailing chaos.
Anyone daring to oppose this Napoléon of [the central São Paulo district of] Higienópolis should beware! Journalists are routinely exposed to all kinds of threats and constraints. Two Rede Record reporters are currently under threat of being killed by the rotten sector of the Civilian Police. A police chief has been punished for refusing to search the homes of four journalists, including the publisher of this blog. It’s also no secret to anyone that Ferreira Pinto makes ample use of the press to conspire against the governor’s place, as the sociologist Túlio Khan’s resignation showed.
He has now assailed the prosecutor’s office, whose job it is to supervise the police that he commands with an iron hand. The aim of the attack, made during an interview on Rádio Jovem Pan, was to denigrate the only institution that is not afraid to stand up to him. It was done to discredit the careful work carried out by the prosecutor’s office after the police attempt to clean up the district of Cracolândia, a disastrous operation that consumed fabulous sums of taxpayers’ money and set figures for drug seizures and treatment of addicts back to zero.
Similarly, Mr. Ferreira Pinto has clearly tried to obstruct the investigation into the cowardly execution of a man suspected of being a PCC member, a case known as the Barracuda Bar Murder. The man was taken in a Military Police ROTA Battalion vehicle to a vacant lot by the Ayrton Senna freeway, where he was beaten and then killed in cold blood. Ferreira Pinto showed up at the Civilian Police Homicide Department, which is in charge of the case, and gave explicit orders to obstruct the department of prosecutions’ access to the investigation as much as possible. A confidentiality order has also strangely been imposed on the investigation, depriving the public of inside information about a public security matter.
Governor Geraldo Alckmin is fully aware of all of this. About a month ago, he had to replace 32 policemen who were responsible for his safety at the governor’s palace. The reasons for the replacement of these police officers and Military Police soldiers are still not known but, behind the scenes, it is said that they were part of a network spying on the movements of the governor and his family within the residential wing of the palace.
Give all of this, society must hold the governor to account for everything that is happening – from the increase in the figures for the most barbaric crimes to the emergence of new forms of criminal activity including collective robberies of buildings and restaurants, which are forcing the public to shut themselves inside their homes while the robbers take over the streets.