December 21, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Fernando Sarney pulls out of law suit against O Estado de São Paulo

Fernando Sarney, a businessman implicated in a corruption scandal, and the son of the speaker of the Senate, on 17 December dropped the case he had launched against the daily O Estado de São Paulo. His law suit had led on 31 July to a legal ban on the paper from referring to the legal procedures against Sarney, which was upheld on appeal on several occasions. The businessman cited the press freedom issue when he announced he had decided to withdraw his suit. “We hope that dropping of Fernando Sarney’s action will put an end to the censorship that unfairly hit O Estado de São Paulo”, Reporters Without Borders said. “The step was all the more unjustified because the businessman took action against the newspaper for reasons that were not directly linked to the corruption scandal for which he was facing proceedings”. -------------- Federal Supreme Court upholds censorship of daily O Estado de São Paulo Reporters Without Borders today condemned as “inexplicable and unsafe” a ruling by judges at the Federal Supreme Court (STF) - the highest court in the land - rejecting an appeal by lawyers for a daily newspaper against preventive censorship slapped on it for the past 133 days. The daily, O Estado de São Paulo, has been banned since 31 July from publishing any reports about court proceedings against businessman Fernando Sarney, the son of former President José Sarney, the current senate speaker. The newspaper has now exhausted all avenues of appeal. “The STF decision is inexplicable because the same top jurisdiction in April this year fully revoked the 1967 press law inherited from the military regime, making it a glaring contradiction in principle”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “It is also unsafe because confirming this preventive censorship creates a dangerous precedent, which could be exploited at any time by powerful figures who find themselves in trouble with the courts, denying Brazilian citizens their right to be informed. It is a serious setback for a fundamental constitutional freedom,” the organisation added. The ruling’s contradiction with the abolition of the 1967 law was rightly raised during the STF deliberations on 10 December. Supporters of the publication ban imposed on O Estado de São Paulo invoked the “violation of the reputation and privacy” of Fernando Sarney, while opponents condemned continuing “authoritarian shots” against the press by the political class. One judge, Carlos Ayres Britto, pointed out that no legal basis for the censorship existed apart from that in the 1967 law that was now null and void. Fernando Sarney launched his action against the daily after it revealed information obtained from phone tapping by the federal police in which he discussed with his father how to get his son-in-law into the senate.