In Brazil, journalist and author JP Cuenca became the defendant in more than 140 lawsuits. These suits were filed all over the country by pastors from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of Christ, a multinational organisation with branches operating in more than a hundred countries.
Mr Cuenca, at the time employed by Deutsche Welle Brasil, tweeted that “Brazilians will only be free when the last Bolsonaro is hanged in the guts of the last pastor of the Universal Church”. Almost no one understood that Mr Cuenca was paraphrasing 18th Century French author, Jean Meslier. Meslier wrote at the time “the man will only be free when the last king is hanged in the guts of the last priest”. Mr Cuenca was swiftly attacked online. He then deleted the tweet and went on to clarify that his post was not aimed at inciting hatred but was a tongue-in-cheek comment using Meslier’s famous phrase.
Deutsche Welle fired him for that tweet, saying it went against their values. Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s son and supporters picked up on the news and intensified their attacks on Mr Cuenca.
Starting in June 2020 individual pastors from the Universal Church began filing lawsuits against Mr Cuenca in almost every Brazilian state (there are 27), except in São Paulo where he lives. Most lawsuits are in the form of civil cases initiated before small claims courts alleging the pastors were offended and asking for compensation. In small claims courts the accused needs to appear him/herself before the court. In addition, six procedures are criminal in nature.
This obviously coordinated strategy by the President’s supporters aims to bankrupt Mr Cuenca. Despite the lawsuits lacking any merit, if even a small number result in a negative judgment, this will have a serious impact on Mr Cuenca. He would have to pay the compensation before appealing to a higher court.
Media Defence is supporting Mr Cuenca’s legal defence.
If you are a journalist or citizen journalist in need of support, please click here.
Background Media Defence is a charity, based in London, which provides legal help to journalists, citizen journalists and independent media across the world. Media Defence’s vision is a world where journalists no longer face legal challenges that threaten their ability to report freely and independently on issues of public interest, allowing citizens to be better […]
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