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Federal Supreme Court opens way to final repeal of 1967 press law

(RSF/IFEX) - The judges of Brazil's highest legal jurisdiction, the Federal Supreme Court (STF), meeting in plenary session on 27 February 2008 confirmed their decision described as preliminary, proposed by judge Carlos Ayres Britto, on 21 February to suspend the application of 20 of the 77 articles of the 1967 press law. This law, inherited from the military dictatorship, provides for prison sentences for offences of "insult, denigration and defamation". The law is no longer applied at the federal level since it conflicts with the 1998 Constitution, but is still used effectively against journalists in some states. Reporters Without Borders welcomes this historic decision which marks an irreversible step towards decriminalisation of press offences.

Among the ten members of the STF who will rule on the question, six have approved the partial suspension of the law called for by Carlos Ayres Britto, three have voted to suspend the law entirely and just one voted against for procedural reasons. The top judges have a deadline of six months from 27 February to ratify a definitive suspension of the 1967 law. The judges' decision opens the way to a full repeal of the law, which was proposed in a draft bill put forward in December 2007 by federal deputy Miro Teixeira.

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