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Brazilian authorities must release blogger detained on criminal defamation charges

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 15 September 2015.

A Brazilian blogger who has spent more than two months in jail in connection with a 2011 criminal defamation conviction should be released immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

"We urge Brazilian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Defamation cases should be resolved in civil court, and journalists should not have to fear going to jail for their reporting."

Police in São Paulo arrested Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado, known as Paulinho, on July 6 according to news reports and his lawyers who spoke to CPJ. The blogger spent more than a month in a police station before being sent to the Tremembé jail, about 90 miles northeast of São Paulo, Danubia Azevedo Barbosa, Prado's lawyer, told CPJ.

Prado's arrest followed a complaint filed against the blogger by Carlos Aidar, the president of a local soccer club, Prado's other lawyer, Romeu Tuma Jr., told CPJ. Tuma said that Prado had published a story that alleged Adair was recruiting a coach for his club. Tuma said Prado got the information after he joined a WhatsApp group that Adair was part of and to avoid any possible denials from Aidar, Paulinho published a screenshot of the message with Aidar's photograph and phone number. Adair accused the blogger of invading his privacy by publishing his personal information and filed the complaint.

Aidar told CPJ that in addition to that complaint, he has filed four other lawsuits against Paulinho for "crime against his honour."

Prado has often criticized local soccer executives on his sports blog, Blog do Paulinho, which he launched in 2006. The blogger has criticized Adair in previous posts, and said the executive lacked morals and ethics.

Tuma said that when police were interrogating Prado, they found that the blogger had been sentenced to prison in a previous case but had never served jail time. In October 2014, Prado had been handed five months and 10 days in jail on criminal defamation charges in connection with a 2011 case, according to Tuma and press reports. Antonio Carlos Sandoval Catta Preta, a well-known Brazilian lawyer, had filed a complaint against the blogger after Prado criticized the lawyer in a post and called him incompetent, according to Tuma and news reports. The post has since been taken down from Prado's blog.

Catta Preta did not immediately answer CPJ's request for comment.

Prado was released pending appeal in the 2011 case. According to the blogger's brother, neither the court nor Prado's lawyers told him that his appeals were denied and that he had to be jailed.

In 2014, CPJ published a special report on press freedom in Brazil that highlighted the way politicians and powerful businessmen have taken advantage of defamation laws to stifle critical reporting.

For more than a decade, regional courts and legislatures throughout the region have found that civil remedies provide adequate redress in cases of alleged libel and slander. But some governments in the Americas, including Ecuador and Peru, continue to use archaic criminal defamation laws to silence dissent, CPJ research shows.

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