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Newspaper files lawsuit against satirical blog

(RSF/IFEX) - 22 December 2010 - One month after its launch, the independent blog Falha de São Paulo, which literally means "Flaw of São Paolo" and which satirises the largest daily newspaper in Brazil, "Folha de São Paulo" (the page of São Paulo), is facing a lawsuit brought by said newspaper for "illegal use of a brand name", denouncing the similarity between the names ("Falha" and "Folha") and the blog's logo.

After getting the blog shut down, the newspaper is now suing for financial compensation for "moral damages", although it seems unlikely that the largest daily would be harmed by an independent blog, says RSF.

The blog, run by the two brothers, Lino and Mario Ito Bocchini, mocked, in particular, the insistence of the newspaper on focusing on Dilma Rousseff, the victorious candidate of the last presidential elections and Head of the State starting on 1 January 2011. "The Internet played a major role in the recent Brazilian presidential campaign. The participation of hundreds of blogs was decisive in the election of Dilma Rousseff as most of them supported the leftist candidate, while all the traditional media (radio, television, dailies and magazines) strongly supported the opposition candidate, José Serra," the blog noted.

While the Frias family, the owners of "Folha de São Paulo", can afford the legal fees, the Bocchini brothers find themselves in financial difficulties because of the lawsuit and their case is being mostly ignored by the traditional media, which are monopolised by a small number of influential families.

This lawsuit which aims to destroy the media financially, illustrates a new form of censorship. The outcome could constitute a dangerous precedent as regards the use of caricature, a right that is an integral part of freedom of expression and opinion. RSF is asking the management of "Folha de São Paulo" to drop its charges against the Bocchini brothers' blog and thus show its commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the federal Constitution of 1988. The media must be open to public criticism as much as any authority or institution.

The two brothers have already created an alternative site: . Several personalities, including Gilberto Gil, the former minister of culture, have recorded video testimonies to condemn the censorship and the lawsuit brought by "Folha de São Paulo".

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