Brazil drops decades-old press censorship law

May 2nd, 2009 - 12:57 am ICT by IANS  

Brasilia, May 1 (EFE) Brazil’s Supreme Court struck down a press censorship law that had been on the books for 42 years and was one of the last vestiges of the 1964-1985 military regime.
In a 7-4 decision, the court ruled Thursday that the law was unconstitutional and violated freedom of expression and said Congress could draft a new text if it deems it necessary.

Speaking for the majority, Justice Ricardo Lewandowski said the law had been passed “with the undeclared goal of prohibiting freedom of expression and of helping to perpetuate an authoritarian regime”.

The challenge to the dictatorship-era press law had been brought by lawmaker Miro Teixeira and served to unite publishers and journalists against norms that had restricted press freedom for more than four decades.

Even though the law’s harshest provisions had not been applied since the adoption of the 1988 constitution, its presence on the books served as a type of “sword of Damocles” for the press.

Last year, the Supreme Court had struck down 22 of the 77 provisions of the 1967 Press Law, saying they violated constitutional and democratic principles.

Among those provisions were ones that censored the news media and punished journalists with lengthy prison terms - more severe than those specified in the penal code - for crimes such as libel and slander.

Justice Carlos Ayres Britto said the Brazilian constitution contains “more than sufficient” means to defend people who may be victims of media excesses or crimes.

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