The New York Times, on 9 May, published an article by its correspondent Larry Rohter titled, “Brazilian Leader’s Tippling Becomes National Concern.” President Lula da Silva later instructed the Justice Ministry to revoke Rohter’s visa under an immigration law allowing a visa to be revoked if the foreigner’s stay is considered “inconvenient.” Although the planned expulsion was never carried out, IPI believes the law should be amended or removed to prevent such a reoccurrence.

“The use of this little-used law, passed by the then military government in 1980, raises a number of troubling issues that need to be resolved,” said IPI Director, Johann P. Fritz. “First, I’m worried by a legal system that would allow for the Brazilian President to allegedly call on the Justice Ministry to penalize a journalist for his writing. There should be a clear recognition of the separation of powers with laws being applied for objective reasons and not for the purposes of meting out punishment because an article causes embarrassment.”

“I’m also concerned by the apparent justification for the use of the immigration law. According to a government website, Rohter’s article caused offence to the ‘honor’ of the President. It appears, therefore, that the immigration law is so widely drafted it can be used as a ‘quasi-insult’ law

“IPI and other international organisations have constantly criticised ‘insult’ laws and they have been deemed illegitimate by the world’s leading courts including the European Court of Human Rights and the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“The Brazilian government should now amend this law to specifically exclude its use for the expulsion of journalists for their writing. By doing so, the Brazilian government will be following international law on the rights of journalists to practice their profession free of government harassment,” Fritz added.– a law that could be used to remove foreign correspondents time and time again.”