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News site threatened with multiple lawsuits

(IPYS/IFEX) - Congresso em Foco, a Brasília-based website which exclusively covers the activities of the Congress, is being harassed with several civil lawsuits. The suits have been moved by civil servants in the Senate who were exposed by Congresso em Foco as having received wages higher than the ceiling for their positions. All 40 plaintiffs have received more than R$20,000 (approx. US$11,527) monthly above the stated limit of their formal wages, according to the site's investigation.

Now, Congresso em Foco's small staff needs to split their time between gathering news and testifying in the cases. Sylvio Costa, the owner of the website, says they're victims of “a kind of strategy increasingly used by the powerful: the use of the courts as an instrument of economic constraint against freedom of information”.

The union of the Legislative civil servants (Sindilegis) has joined the plaintiffs in suing Congresso em Foco. Costa says this shows “a rough and egotist corporativism, aimed at the defense of privileges”.

Such long suits can be crippling to small media. Last week, “Já” newspaper, from Porto Alegre, closed its doors under the weight of punishing lawsuits.

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