Sunday, the Times published a nasty article all but calling Brazilian President Lula di Silva a drunk based on what author acknowledges were dubious rumors. Monday, Brazil’s Ambassador wrote a appropriately indignant letter in response. Now, in an unfortunate abridgement of the values of a free media, Brazil has announced plans to expel the journalist, Larry Rohter. This is, needless to say, the worst possible way to handle the situation. And as Reuters observes:
It will be the first time a foreign journalist has been thrown out of Brazil since the end of a 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The nation’s military rulers even jailed Lula, a former militant unionist who made his name standing up for the oppressed.
As Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch said:
If the Brazilian authorities goes through with their threat to expel Rohter, it will do irreparable damage to freedom of expression in the country and send a terrible message to other governments in the region that respect Brazil’s tradition of tolerance…President Lula has other means available to rebut this article or any other criticism with which he disagrees. Instead of lashing out like this, he could have opted to defend himself publicly in Brazil’s vibrant free press.”