Friday, October 08, 2004


The usual Third World mentality on display

"Since Brazilians enacted their democratic Constitution, in 1988, the law of their country has in theory prohibited all forms of censorship to freedom of the press. However, the situation in Brazil provides an extraordinary illustration of how 'law' in practice may be completely different from law in theory. Regardless of its legal protection, reality shows that freedom of the press has not been fully protected in Brazil.

Regardless of such provisions, constant attacks have been occurring against freedom of the press. Since President Luiz In cio Lula da Silva took office in 2003, the government has regularly complained that journalists are giving too much 'negative information' about Lula, who also says that journalists still have to develop a more 'loyal relationship' with the state.

In reacting against this kind of intimidation from the current administration, journalists decided to deliver on March 2004 their Manifesto for the Freedom of Information. They basically argued that Lula has created 'serious obstacles' to freedom of the press, and imposed a 'law of silence' upon public officers, who are now forbidden to provide any information about official hearings that the press was normally authorized to attend, even during the military government.

In fact, executive employees from federal ministries, agencies, public companies, and regulatory agencies have been advised that any information given to journalists always need to be 'filtered' by the authority in charge of each department. The Federal Cabinet of Institutional Security says that those employees cannot talk with the press without their supervisors' previous permission. Although the Lula administration describes the measure as 'awareness-raising campaign', the press decided to call it censorship, because it goes beyond what the law says about protection of sensitive information. Political analyst Dora Kramer has even reminded the President that his measure clashes with electoral promises of governing with transparency. As she wrote, such 'law of silence' is "more proper to militarised and misguided minds that mistake obligatory party discipline for democratic freedom of information....

In practice, freedom of the press might be dramatically reduced if Brazil's National Congress enacts a law proposal introduced in August 2004 by the PT government. Its purpose is to create the Federal Council of Journalism (CFJ), an entity that will have power to "orient, discipline, and monitor" journalists who work in the country. Once this bill is enacted, they will have to be registered with such entity to work. Penalties for violations range from fines to revocation of a reporter's registration. The prototype that inspired the proposal is the Ethics National Commission from Fidel Castro's Cuba. The essence of democracy is freedom of expression. Attempts to control the press under the pretext of disciplining journalists are basically anti-democratic.

However, the federal press secretary, Ricardo Kotscho, says that the purpose of the CFJ "is to guarantee society the completeness of freedom of the press, and not the freedom of some professionals and companies to publish what they feel like, at the service of their own interests". For Lula's chief policy strategist, Luiz Gushiken, "nothing is absolute, not even freedom of the press". And Labour Minister Ricardo Berzoini goes on to suggest that the state has 'urgency' to establish an 'efficient body' with power to punish 'bad journalists' who do not behave 'adequately'.....

Finally, we must consider that Brazil has recently supported the request from Libya and Cuba to suspend the consultative status of the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) within the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The fact provides extraordinary evidence that the Lula administration does not have any esteem for freedom of the press. On July 23, 2003, Brazil supported the RWB suspension because the free-press organization dared to criticise the election of Colonel Gaddafi's Libya as the chair of that commission. In joining Libya and other countries with extensive record of human rights violations, such as China, Cuba, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, the Lula administration voted for the suspension of one of the few press-freedom organizations to have consultative status within that branch from the U.N. Economic and Social Council"

More here.


A federal judge in Detroit on Monday ordered the Ann Arbor Public School system to pay $102,738 in attorney fees and costs to the Thomas More Law Center, which defended a student who expressed her religious views against homosexuality. During her high school's annual "Diversity Week" program, Betsy Hansen says she was not allowed to express her belief against homosexuality. Hansen also complained about a school-sponsored "Homosexuality and Religion" panel, which, she said, was stacked with religious leaders who endorsed her school's pro-homosexual agenda.

Pioneer High School officials claimed that Hansen's religious objection toward homosexuality was a "negative" message and would "water-down" the "positive" religious message that they wanted to convey-that homosexuality was consistent with Christianity and that homosexual behavior is not immoral or sinful.

Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling the case, commented, "If the Ann Arbor Public School District wants to continue to promote the homosexual agenda at the expense of the rights of Christian students, then this will be the cost of doing business. "This case should remind school officials that public schools are not a forum for their personal political agenda." The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal civil rights case against the school district and several officials in July 2002, claiming that Hansen's constitutional rights had been violated.

Last December, Federal District Judge Gerald E. Rosen ruled that the school had violated Hansen's constitutional right to freedom of speech and right to equal protection, as well as the Establishment Clause. The six-figure fee award is a result of that earlier decision. The judge's 70-page opinion in favor of Hansen criticized the school for censoring Hansen's speech: "This case presents the ironic, and unfortunate, paradox of a public high school celebrating 'diversity' by refusing to permit the presentation to students of an 'unwelcomed' viewpoint on the topic of homosexuality and religion, while actively promoting the competing view," Rosen said.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said Judge Rosen's ruling "sends a clear message to public schools that insidiously attempt to advance the homosexual agenda using the Trojan Horse of 'diversity.' "Betsy Hansen's courageous refusal to be silenced is an example to other Christian students who are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs," Thompson added.

From CNS News

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