Brazil Bans Political Satire Ahead of Presidential Election

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazilian comedians are prohibited from publicly making fun of candidates ahead of the upcoming presidential election.  The law, which could last until the runoff election at the end of October, has been dubbed the “anti-joke law.”  Specifically, the law forbids television and radio programs from “using trickery, montages or other features of audio or video in any way to degrade or ridicule a candidate, party or coalition.”

Brazilian internet services are not licensed by the government and therefore the ban does not cover internet material, but the material could still be judged by the Brazilian courts.

The law was a product of Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship and specifically prohibits satire about political candidates in the three months preceding and election.  Violating the law is punishable by a fine of up to $112,000 and a broadcast license suspension.

Brazilian performers are not taking the ban lying down and plan to fight the prohibition.  There is public outcry that the law violates freedom of speech and several groups have planned protests in Rio de Janeiro, and other cities, on Sunday.  The groups claim that the ban on speech is a stain on the democratic country’s international reputation.

Marcelo Tas, a comedian-turned-reporter and the host of a weekly television comedy show that targets politicians, asked “[d]o you know of any other democracy in the world with rules like this?”  Tas also stated that people would have to look at classic comedian Monty Python’s material to find a bigger joke than the “anti-joke law.”

Proponents of the law claim that the law’s true purpose is to ensure that all candidates are portrayed in an even light so as not to skew voting.  According to backers, the ban on satire encourages candor because candidates will not fear widespread political jokes.

Tas, on the other hand, uses President Obama’s popularity leading up to the 2008 presidential election as a prime example of the benefit of satirical programming.  According to Tas, candidates, including Barack Obama, benefit from showing a more humane and personal side of themselves that generally shines through when one is confronted with a critical opinion.

On Deadline – Satirists (seriously) protest Brazil’s Political Anti-joking Law Ahead of Election – 17 August 2010

Press Association – Satire banned from Brazil election – 17 August 2010

Telegraph – Satire banned in Brazil ahead of presidential election – 17 August 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive