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French documentary maker faces a slew of lawsuits in bid to censor his film

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has urged courts in a Brazilian state not to give way to pressure and endorse an act of censorship against a film by French documentary maker José Huerta.

The director is facing a total of eight legal proceedings, including one criminal charge, along with a 60,000 euro fine for damages over a film he made in 2008 about tourist development and its harmful effects on Parajuru, a small fishing village in northeastern Brazil.

The criminal trial, which opens on 5 May 2010, relates to alleged defamatory remarks that are not in the documentary.

"If José Huerta is within his rights on the substance, we urge the justice system in Ceará state hearing the case not to give way to any pressure, particularly financial, and sanction an act of censorship," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"We have seen 'A Week in Parajuru' and we can guarantee the director's determination to be objective," RSF said. "It gives voice both to the representatives of the Austrian promoters who are behind the tourist development in Parajuru and to people from the region."

Huerta does not, through the film, seek to oppose development at any price. He stresses, with good reason, the lack of consultation with the local community on the part of the Austrian group, headed by Gisele Wisniewski. He highlights the social and environmental problems with this kind of investment, noting that some activities have been declared illegal by federal authorities. He also points out, without making any accusations against the promoters he filmed, the possible ill effects of mass tourism.

Although she appeared briefly on film, Gisele Wisniewski refused to reply to José Huerta's questions. The filmmaker did however question close associates. To demonstrate his good faith, Huerta even organised a screening of the film in Parajuru, open to all those involved, in April 2009. It was following this screening that a complaint was laid against him leading to the opening, in July 2009, of eight legal proceedings that he was notified of in January.

"There is nothing to justify any legal proceeding against this work, even less its seizure or censorship," said RSF, who wondered whether the promoters' stance might be linked to the fact that someone close to Gisele Wisniewski was implicated in a financial scandal in Austria in September 2009 (Buwog Affäre) and that embezzled money may have been reinvested in Parajuru.

See also the website of the campaign in support of the film

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