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Proposed congressional investigation of publishing house may be politically motivated

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 28 August 2007 IAPA press release:

IAPA to keep eye on investigation into Grupo Abril by Brazilian Congress

Miami (August 28, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) announced today that it plans to keep a close watch on the investigation expected to be carried out by the Brazilian Congress into commercial links between Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica and Brazil's Grupo Abril to insure that there is "no violation of principles which could harm the free flow of news or the public's right to know."

In a note to Chamber of Deputies Speaker Arlindo Chinaglia, IAPA president Rafael Molina and chairman of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Gonzalo Marroquín, expressed the organization's concern that any potential decision by Congress to open an investigation into Grupo Abril might be an act of reprisal by Senate President Renan Calheiros, who was accused of engaging in corrupt practices by Grupo Abril's magazine Veja.

On July 18 Brazil's National Telecommunications Agency approved formation of a partnership between Grupo Abril and Telefónica, paving the way for it to offer TV subscriptions and broadband telephone and online services.

According to complaints received by IAPA, the investigation is believed to be in reprisal for "courageous investigative reporting and the uncovering of a number of scandals concerning politicians and members at all levels of government by Veja magazine" and because Grupo Abril "has been suffering political pressure precisely over its partnership with Telefónica, entered into in October 2006."

Congressman Wladmir Costa, from the same party as Calheiros, which has a majority in the lower house, introduced a motion to set up a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to look into the legality of the transaction.

In the note sent to Congress Molina, editor of the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, newspaper El Día, and Marroquín, editor of the newspaper Prensa Libre in Guatemala City, Guatemala, declared that "besides those complaints and the question of the power that Congress might have to review business contracts and agreements, the IAPA reports that it will closely follow the investigation and its results, and that it hopes that there will be no violation of principles which could harm the free flow of news of the public's right to know."

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