A state court in Brazil said a newspaper’s reports about a corrupt mayor may have been right but they were reported too soon, so the paper has to pay a penalty of $353,000, an amount that will force the paper closed.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports that the Jornal de Londrina, in Paraná state has to pay the mayor, who was convicted of corruption, the money because the news story documenting the corruption came out “prematurely.”
The paper is appealing the ruling to the national Supreme Court.
The editor of Jornal says the fine would bankrupt his small paper.
In an earlier case this year — Brazilian journalist facing jail for offending candidate seeks habeas corpus — a journalist was jailed because he wrote an article that “offended the honor” of a candidate for the city council of Lagoa Santa, in Minas Gerais.
Brazilian law, like many the laws in many other countries, does not accept truth as an absolute defense against libel or slander. So even if a person is a dirty rotten scoundrel and that can be proved, that person can still sue and win.
Then there is the issue of the still developing idea of judicial independence in Brazil. By and large the judiciary and political powers are separate but in too many instances on local levels the judges do what the power structure (elected or otherwise) tells them to do.