A court in Sao Paulo ruled that journalists have the right to publish material leaked to them by government employees.
The ruling came in the case of attorney Susan Volpini in lawsuit against TV Globo.
Volpini complained about the leaking of information that linked her to an organized crime syndicate. She was later acquitted of the charge.
Volpini sued Globo for US$700,000 in moral damages.
The judge tossed the case, saying it is the responsibility of the government agencies to protect information. It is the responsibility of the journalists to test the veracity of the source and information.
“The press has the right to report to the content [of the documents],” the judge wrote. He added that action can only be taken against the person who leaked the information, not the reporter or news organization.
This is good news in Brazil. The country is still dealing with the legacy of the dictatorship in some of the laws still on the books. And it is dealing with “popular” movements from the left. In both situations, press freedom is not a high priority.
In the past few years there have been a number of proposed laws and presidential initiatives that threaten press freedom and media independence.
- Last year there was a bill proposed to make it illegal for journalists to publish leaked information.
- There is the ongoing debate on whether the government should require a specialized degree to allow anyone to call him/herself a journalist.
- A court ruled that 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.
- Then there were the “social control” of the media thing that former president Lula tried to put into place. (Fortunately, President Rousseff has taken this little bit of state-control off the stove, not even the back burner.)