Brazil: Condemn Homophobic Censorship Of Student Magazine In Sao Paulo

SUMMARY

The Sao Paulo (Brazil) Official Press refused to print a magazine edited by Casper Libero School of Journalism students because its cover showed two men kissing. Local activists have sued the Press under the state anti-discriminatory law.

ACTION

IGLHRC asks for letters condemning the decision of the Sao Paulo Official Press and supporting local organization Identidade in the legal action it has taken.

Please write to:

Sergio Kobayashi
President
Imprensa Oficial do Estado de Sao Paulo
(Sao Paulo Official Press)
Rua da Mooca 1921
Sao Paulo, SP
Brazil
Fax: (55 11) 292 29 93
Email: cti@imprensaoficial.com.br
Conselho Geral da Defensoria Homossexual de São Paulo
(Sao Paulo Ombudsman Office for Homossexuals)
Rua Altino Arantes, 83, Jardim da Saúde
04042-030 - São Paulo, SP
Phone/fax: (55 11) 5072.3269 or (55 11) 275.2284
Email: quaresma@sti.com.br

And please send a copy to

Identidade - Grupo de Ação Pela Cidadania Homossexual
paulomariante@uol.com.br

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Mr. Kobayashi,

We write to you to express our concern about your refusal to print the last issue of the magazine "Esquinas de SP", edited by Journalism students at Casper Libero School. According to the local press and activists, you declared that the magazine included pictures--above all, a cover depicting a Black and a white men kissing, with images of a cross and a Star of David inserted--that were in "bad taste". You said these would "bring more damage than profit to the Official Press image."

Local activists and the magazine editors take your decision as an act of censorship and discrimination, and we agree. The state of Sao Paulo, which the Official Press serves, has taken a clear stance against all forms of discrimination -including those based on sexual orientation- by passing Law 10.948/2001. This statute defines discriminatory acts as a crime and imposes due sanctions on social organizations, private business and state institutions that indulge in them.

"Bad" and "good" taste are very subjective categories, that can never be taken as criteria for action on the part of civil servants--particularly when these sanction discriminatory practices. Rather, public officials exist to serve the community: they are bound by the laws and regulations passed by elected representatives to express the needs and will of the community. Nothing could be more detrimental to the Official Press than indulging in acts of censorship for which it is not qualified, nor mandated, and that violate State legislation.

Moreover, your refusal to print the magazine constitutes a violation to the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of opinion and expression, protected by the Brazilian and Sao Paulo Constitutions, as well as by international human rights treaties ratified by Brazil such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Human Rights Convention.

We urge you to never indulge in such discriminatory acts again. We encourage you to contact other public officers such as the Ombudsman Office for Homosexuals, as well as local non-governmental organizations that could educate you and your staff on the anti-discriminatory provisions in force in the State of Sao Paulo and provide sensitivity training on sexual diversity and the rights of sexual minorities.

Sincerely,

(your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Sao Paulo Official Press was created in 1931 to publish the Official Newspaper for the State of Sao Paulo. At present, its function is to print any materials needed for the public administration, including Universities, ranging from newspapers to forms and other official documents.

Students from the Social Communication School at Cesar Libero Foundation denounced the facts referred to above on April 20, 2002. Carolina Cassiano, editor of the Esquinas de SP magazine, explained that the purpose of the cover was "to make people reflect on intolerance". Denial by the Official Press forced the students to take their materials to a private press, where they were printed.

The Ombudsman Office for Homosexuals was established in Sao Paulo on March 29, 2002. The first of its kind in Brazil, it provides free legal counsel to victims of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also supports the struggle for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights in the country.

In The Law

Law 10.948 was passed in November 5, 2001. It penalizes "attacks or discriminatory manifestations against homosexual, bisexual or transgender citizens" (Article 1). Among the behaviors considered as such, Article 2 lists "… restrictive …actions of a moral, ethical, philosophical or psychological nature". Article 3 makes public officers liable, along with social organizations and businesses. Penalties range for a warning up to closure and fines. Public servants are also subjected to sanctions prescribed for them in the Statute for Public Servants.

The Brazilian Constitution protects the right to "free expression of intellectual, artistic, scientific and communicational activities, without censorship…" (Article 5.9). It also establishes that "any discrimination that attacks fundamental rights and freedoms will be punishable by law" (Article 5.41). And it incorporates international human right instruments ratified by Brazil in Article 5.78.2.

Right to freedom of expression and opinion is protected by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 19). The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds … in the form of art or through any other media of … choice" (Article 19.2). The same formulation can be found in the Interamerican Human Rights Convention (Article 13.1).

Right to equality and non-discrimination is protected by the UDHR (Articles 1,2 and 7), the ICCPR (Article 2 and 26) and the IARHC (Article 1 and 24)

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