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"Estado de Minas" newspaper ordered to print university's reply to an article, IAPA equates "disproportionate" ruling with censorship

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an abbreviated translation of a 31 March 2009 IAPA press release:

Disproportionate "right of reply" ruling in Brazil equals censorship, says IAPA

Miami (31 March 2009) - The IAPA has characterised as "disproportionate" a judicial order requiring the daily Estado de Minas to publish a response from the Minas Gerais Federal University (Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais) to information the newspaper had printed earlier about allegations of irregularities in the selection of teaching staff and in the use of public funds at the university. Following the publication of the information, the university initiated legal action against the newspaper.

Judge Ronaldo Santos de Oliveira ruled in favour of the university and ordered the daily to print the educational institution's response on the front page and on six other pages of its 29 March 2009 edition. University officials had originally refused to comment when journalists consulted them about the allegations of irregularities.

IAPA president Enrique Santos Calderón said that although the "right of reply" is contained within the Brazilian Press Law, "the disproportionate way in which it is used in many cases leads to censorship in the sense that it takes up space in the newspaper in which other information could be printed and, in many instances, the truthfulness of the information is not taken into consideration." The daily held off on granting the university the publication of its reply pending an appeal of the judge's decision. Nevertheless, Santos Calderón noted that the daily had shown a willingness to publish the university's perspective on the supposed irregularities and, as such, there was no need for the application of a judicial order or for the response to take up such an inordinate amount of space in the daily.

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