Censorship in Brazil

Censorship in Brazil, both cultural and political, occurred throughout the whole period following the colonization of the country. Even though most state censorship ended just before the period of redemocratization that started in 1985, Brazil still experiences a small amount of non-official censorship today. The current legislation restricts freedom of expression concerning racism (Paim Law)[1] and the Constitution prohibits the anonymity of journalists.[2]


Military dictatorship (1964–1985)[edit]

In 1985, during Brazil's military dictatorship, the federal government banned Jean-Luc Godard's 1985 film Hail Mary, claiming that it was an insult to the Christian faith (although the State was officially secular).[3] Singer Roberto Carlos, a devout Catholic, deliberately damaged his image with liberal sectors of Brazilian society when he supported the ban by the José Sarney administration.[4] With the new Brazilian Constitution and redemocratization of the country, in the 1990s, the film was made available again.[5]



In 1989, the "Anti-racism law" was passed, the law bans promotion of Nazi ideals and the use of Nazi symbols, and also bans incitement to discrimination or prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religion, and national origin.


In 1994, just a day before the premiere of the British documentary Beyond Citizen Kane at the Rio de Janeiro Modern Art Museum, the Military Police confiscated the copy of the film, obeying a court warrant. The film takes a critical approach towards the establishment of Rede Globo, the largest television broadcaster in the country, explaining its ties to the military dictatorship. On 20 August 2009, the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that Rede Record bought the broadcasting rights to the documentary. This happened after a series of mutual attacks between Globo and Rede Record because of an investigation conducted by the Public Ministry against. The network is waiting official authorization of the Justice system to broadcast the film.[citation needed]

The song "Luís Inácio (300 Picaretas)" by rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso, from their 1995 album Vamo Batê Lata, was banned in the Federal District. The song alludes to a statement made by Brazilian former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in which he said that the Chamber of Deputies is formed by 300 bastards and a minority of honest men. Deputy Bonifácio Andrada of the Brazilian Labour Party of Minas Gerais, outraged with the song, managed to ban it from a concert the band would perform in Brasília on 23 June 1995 on the basis the song was offensive to an electoral candidate. Other deputies joined Andrada in his crusade against the song, but it was ultimately banned only from radio airplay.[6]

In 1997, a law forbidden "to use trickery, montage, or other audio or video feature that, in any way, degrade or ridicule a candidate, party or coalition, or to produce or display program with that purpose" three months before a political election was created.[7] In 2010, this law was questioned by Brazilian Association of Radio and TV and humorists and Supreme Federal Court (STF) suspended its effect.[8]


In 2003, when Senator Eduardo Azeredo of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party of Minas Gerais proposed a bill to curb digital crimes (known as "the digital AI-5"), he was heavily criticized by Internet users, who felt that it would force Internet Service Providers to act as watchdogs, since they would have the legal obligation to denounce possible illegal activities.[9]

In 2005, the rock band Bidê ou Balde faced legal problems after the release of their song "E Por Que Não?" (And Why Not?) on the MTV Brasil special album Acústico MTV Bandas Gaúchas (MTV Acoustic Gaúcha Bands). The song was seen by some as encouraging incest. After several lawsuits from women's and children's right organizations, MTV felt pressured to re-release the album without the track and to stop showing its music video. The lyrics of the song, however, can still be found on the Internet.[10]

In February 2007, two court cases were settled when an agreement was reached that all copies of the book Roberto Carlos em Detalhes, an unauthorized biography of singer Roberto Carlos by journalist Paulo César de Araújo, would be repurchased from bookstores.[11] The singer's attempt to censor the book proved to be a failure, since copies can be easily found on the Internet.[12]

On 18 January 2008, a court order prohibited the sale of the games Counter-Strike and EverQuest in Brazil, arguing that they were extremely violent.[13] The move has been described by media as a publicity stunt on the regulation of video game violence and sexually explicit content, and also as a hasty decision that ignored much more violent games. As all versions of Counter-Strike were very popular in Brazil at the time, the decision was met with considerable uproar by the Brazilian gaming community. The game's developer Valve did not comment on the episode. However, on 18 June 2009, a regional federal court order lifting the ban of Counter-Strike was published.[14]

On 22 September 2008, Minas Gerais PSDB attempted to censor a documentary about censorship: "Gagged in Brazil", by Daniel Florencio.[15] The short film elucidates the imbrication between politics and media in the state of Minas Gerais, where the media only conveyed news favorable to the state government, censoring journalists that were critical of governor Aécio Neves.[16]

On 30 July 2009, Fernando Sarney, son of former President and Senator José Sarney, obtained a favorable decision from the Federal District Court of Justice that kept the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo from publishing stories about a criminal investigation conducted by the Federal Police against him.,[17] as Brazilian law prohibits disclosure of the status of criminal investigations before they are concluded. Later that year, the STF rejected a suit by the newspaper seeking to overturn the ruling, thus maintaining the information unavailable.[18] The NGO Reporters Without Borders called the Supreme Court decision "incomprehensible" and "dangerous."[19] After the investigation was finished, and Fernando Sarney was charged for his crimes, the censored information was released to the public.


In April 2010, Google reported that Brazil was the country with most requests from its government to take down content.[20] In June 2010, Brazilian Election Justice through Superior Electoral Court requested Google to remove two blogs: "amigosdopresidentelula.blogspot.com" and "euqueroserra.blogspot.com", which were deemed as political propaganda for Dilma Rousseff and José Serra respectively.[21][22]

On 9 August 2011, the Federal Justice of Minas Gerais blocked the distribution of A Serbian Film, a 2010 Serbian horror film, in Brazil. This was the first time a movie was banned in Brazil since the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution.[23] As of 2012 this decision has been overturned and the film given a "not recommended for those under the age of 18, due to depictions of sex, pedophilia, violence and cruelty" rating.[24][25]

While freedom of expression is a constitutional right in Brazil, in August 2012, the tourist ministry tried to censor expression of Roosh V in other country, according to him – shown by a claimed e-mail from the ministry.[26]

In September 2012, an elections court in Brazil ordered the arrest of Fábio José Silva Coelho, Google’s most senior executive in the country, after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a local mayoral candidate. The stringent 1965 Electoral Code bans campaign ads that “offend the dignity or decorum” of a candidate. Google is appealing the order, which comes after a similar decision by another Brazilian elections judge. In that case, the judge found a different senior executive responsible for violating local election law after the company refused to take down a YouTube video mocking a mayoral candidate. That decision was overturned by another judge who wrote that “Google is not the intellectual author of the video, it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.” Google also defended users’ political rights saying "that voters have a right to use the Internet to freely express their opinions about candidates for political office, as a form of full exercise of democracy, especially during electoral campaigns”.[27]

In 2016, Federal Deputy for São Paulo Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of Deputy Jair Bolsonaro, introduced a bill to amend the "Anti-racism law" to also ban promotion of Communist ideals and the use of Communist symbols, and to also ban fomentation of conflict between social classes.

Freedom of speech and the press[edit]

Brazilian law enforces freedom of speech and press, and the authorities generally respect these rights in practice. The independent media are active and express a wide variety of views with no restriction, but nongovernmental criminal elements continue to subject journalists to violence because of their professional activities. A growing number of cases of judicial censorship of the media pose a serious threat to press freedom.[28] Brazilian law states that "material deemed offensive to a certain party may be removed if said party enters judicial action". However, this is sometimes exploited by companies and government officials, whom the law sometimes favors.

The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) reports cases of imprisonment, aggression, censorship, and failure to respect freedom of the press. Between 1 January and 26 July 2011, the ANJ reported 23 cases of censorship, threats, direct violence against journalists, and other forms of pressure against news organizations and professionals, including three killings, one imprisonment, six cases of censorship, and nine instances of verbal assault and physical battery,[28] though those were reportedly not practised by the Brazilian government, but by criminal organizations.

In 2010, there were already complaints about the growth of press censorship in Brazil, via the Judiciary "The Brazilian electoral legislation is favoring censorship into the journalism practice", was the assessment of those who participated in the panel "Freedom of Speech and democratic state" during a forum in the São Paulo city[29] Journalist and columnist Reinaldo Azevedo of Veja magazine; television comedian Marcelo Madureira from sketch show Casseta & Planeta; and professor of ethics and political philosophy Roberto Romano participated in the debate.[29] Azevedo said that the legislation affect mainly the internet and television. "Television, especially, is obliged to give the same space to people who has something to tell, and who hasn't nothing to say."[29] Romano wrote that court decisions also undermine freedom of expression. "There is a movement not only in Brazil, but internationally, to control the power of the state, through the Judiciary". Romano cited a case of censorship to the newspaper "O Estado de S. Paulo" as an example.[29] According to Madureira, comedians are extremely hurt with the Brazilian electoral legislation.[29]

Internet freedom[edit]

There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet or credible reports that the government monitors e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups can engage in the expression of views via the Internet, including by e‑mail. A continuing trend is for private individuals and official bodies to take legal action against Internet service providers and providers of online social media platforms, such as Google, Facebook, and Orkut, holding them accountable for content posted to or provided by users of the platform. Judicial rulings often result in the forced removal of content from the Internet.[28]

Brazil is not individually classified by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), but is included in the ONI regional overview for Latin America.[30]

Brazilian legislation restricts the freedom of expression (Paim Law[citation needed]), directed especially to publications considered racist (such as neo-nazi sites). The Brazilian Constitution also prohibits anonymity of journalists.[2]

In March 2009, Chamber President Michel Temer ordered TV Câmara to remove a video of a debate from its website in which CartaCapital journalist Leandro Fortes criticized Gilmar Mendes' tenure as Court President.[31] Many viewed this as political censorship and the video was soon posted on YouTube.[32] After being denounced for censorship by the country's main bodies representing journalists, TV Câmara has uploaded the debate back to its website.[31]

In September 2012, an elections court in Brazil ordered the arrest of Google’s most senior executive in the country, after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a local mayoral candidate. The stringent 1965 Electoral Code bans campaign ads that “offend the dignity or decorum” of a candidate, although critic is, notably, permitted. Google is appealing the order, which might be decided after a similar decision by another Brazilian elections judge. In that case, the judge found a different senior executive responsible for violating local election law after the company refused to take down a YouTube video mocking a mayoral candidate. That decision was overturned by another judge who wrote that “Google is not the intellectual author of the video, it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.”[27]


Rede Globo[edit]

Rede Globo, the largest telenovela producer of the country, is known to have practiced self-censorship on at least two occasions.

According to Afro-Brazilian actor Tony Tornado, in a statement for the 2000 documentary A Negação do Brasil which denounces racism on the Brazilian television, three final sequences were shot for the 1985 telenovela Roque Santeiro, which drew a record-breaking audience. In two of them, the protagonist Porcina (Regina Duarte) ended up with white characters (Lima Duarte or José Wilker) and in the other, she ended up with Tornado's character Rodésio. Globo's press office, however, reported that just two final sequences had been shot; with Porcina ending up with one of the white characters. According to Tornado, the third sequence was banned by the head of the network.[citation needed]

Rede Record[edit]

Rede Record was criticized for censoring the 2009 telenovela Poder Paralelo. The head of the network vetoed author Lauro César Muniz, who claimed to have left Globo due to the lack of artistic freedom, and director Ignácio Coqueiro from writing and directing scenes featuring thighs, breasts, buttocks and coarse language. Although the head of the network claimed the scenes were being cut so that the program could receive a 14 classification, scenes containing deep violence were not removed. This resulted in bad reviews for the network, already known for its aestheticization of violence.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lopes, Nei (2006). Dicionário escolar afro-brasileiro. Selo Negro. p. 96.
  2. ^ a b "Title II, Chapter I, Article 5 of the Constitution of Brazil states in part that "IV - the expression of thought is free, anonymity being forbidden" and "XIV - access to information is ensured to everyone and the confidentiality of the source shall be safeguarded, whenever necessary to the professional activity".
  3. ^ Schneider, Greice (17 May 2006), "TOP 10: Filmes para assistir depois de O Código Da Vinci" Archived 1 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, A Tarde.
  4. ^ Folha Online (19 October 2009). "Folha Explica Roberto Carlos, sua carreira e sua brasilidade", Folha de S.Paulo.
  5. ^ Hail Mary in Brazilian on-line shop Submarino.com.br
  6. ^ Excerpt of the book Os Paralamas do Sucesso: Vamo Batê Lata by Jamari França on Google Books.
  7. ^ William, Fábio (27 August 2010). "STF libera sátira sobre políticos no período eleitoral" (in Portuguese). Globo.com. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  8. ^ Zampier, Débora (2 September 2010). "STF libera sátiras e críticas a candidatos no rádio e na TV" (in Portuguese). Agência Brasil. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  9. ^ http://www.cartacapital.com.br/politica/o-ai-5-digital
  10. ^ E Por Que Não? by Bidê ou Balde's lyrics on Letras.mus (in Portuguese).
  11. ^ Araújo, Patrícia (27 April 2007). "Editora aceita recolher livro de Roberto Carlos, que desiste de indenização" (Publisher accepts collect book by Roberto Carlos, who gives up compensation), Globo.com. (English translation)
  12. ^ Roberto Carlos em Detalhes (Roberto Carlos Details) Archived 26 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Paulo Cesar de Araújo, Editora Planeta, 2006, on Scribd.
  13. ^ "Electronic Arts suspende a venda de 'Counter-Strike' no Brasil" (Electronic Arts suspends sale of 'Counter-Strike' in Brazil), Globo.com, 22 January 2008. (English translation)
  14. ^ "Justiça libera venda do game 'Counter-Strike' no Brasil" (Justice releases the game 'Counter-Strike' for sale in Brazil), Globo.com, 18 June 2009. (English translation)
  15. ^ "Gagged in Brazil - Censura na Imprensa", 8:37 video available on YouTube, 20 May 2008, retrieved 24 June 2013
  16. ^ "Brazil: Attempts to censor a documentary about censorship", Paula Góes, Global Voices Advocacy, 20 November 2008.
  17. ^ Recondo, Felipe (31 July 2009). "Justiça censura Estado e proíbe informações sobre Sarney", O Estado de S. Paulo.
  18. ^ Notícias STF. "Arquivada ação do jornal O Estado de S. Paulo contra proibição de veicular matérias sobre Fernando Sarney"
  19. ^ Comunique-se (12 December 2009). "Para RSF, manutenção de censura é “incompreensível” e “perigosa”" Archived 25 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (20 April 2010). "Google Launches New Tool to Highlight Government Data and Removal Requests It Receives". ReadWrite. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  21. ^ "MPE entra com ação no TSE contra Google por blog pró-Dilma" (in Portuguese). R7. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Justiça Eleitoral manda Google informar quem são os responsáveis por blog pró-Serra" (in Portuguese). R7. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  23. ^ "'A Serbian Film': Lançamento no país é proibido novamente" ('A Serbian Film': Release in the country is banned again), Cine Pop, 8 September 2011. (English translation)
  24. ^ http://oglobo.globo.com/cultura/a-serbian-film-liberado-em-todo-brasil-menos-no-rio-de-janeiro-2706621
  25. ^ http://blogs.estadao.com.br/flavia-guerra/quase-um-ano-depois-a-serbian-film-e-liberado-em-todo-o-brasil/
  26. ^ Roosh (30 April 2012). "The Brazilian Government Is Trying To Censor Me". Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  27. ^ a b "Top Google Executive in Brazil Faces Arrest Over Video", New York Times (Reuters), 25 September 2012
  28. ^ a b c "Brazil", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2011. The article includes text from the report, which is in the public domain.
  29. ^ a b c d e "Electoral law favors censorship of the press, analysts say". G1 (in Portuguese). 1 March 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  30. ^ "ONI: Regional Overview: Latin America", OpenNet Initiative
  31. ^ a b Fortes, Leandro. "O fim da Idade Mendes" Archived 29 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Observatório da Imprensa. 23 April 2010.
  32. ^ "A Entrevista Censurada Pelo Ministro Gilmar Mendes - parte I" (Interview Censored by the Minister Gilmar Mendes - Part I), video on YouTube (8:17), 19 March 2009. (English translation of text)