Note from the Observatory for Research, Science and Freedom and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC)
The Observatory for Research, Science and Liberty, the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science and its network of partner institutions are deeply concerned about the decision of the third group of TRF in Region I, which has accepted a criminal complaint from the Public Prosecutor of the Republic (PGR), Augusto Arras, against Professor Conrado Huebner Méndez. Therefore, they come again to offer their solidarity with the teacher, whose freedom of thought and expression is threatened by the decision.
Conrado Huebner Mendez, a member of this observatory, is PhD Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of São Paulo Law School and develops research on fundamental rights and theories of democracy and justice, constitutional jurisprudence, decisions, and functioning. of the Federal Supreme Court. He also coordinates the Center for the Analysis of Freedom and Authoritarianism (LAUT), an independent institution that monitors manifestations of authoritarianism and attacks on freedoms, and has recently published a study entitled “Academic Freedom in Brazil – A Case Study of Recent Developments” by the Global Public Policy Institute. His academic performance exceeded the limits of the academy. Today, he is an important public thinker, especially for his columns in the mainstream press.
Arras has filed a criminal complaint against Hubner, accusing him of slander, libel and defamation, due to social media posts and an article in Folha de S. Paulo criticizing PGR’s performance. In the first instance, the lawsuit was dismissed by Federal Judge Polyana Kelly Alves, of 12th Federal Court in SJ/DF, who understood that the behaviors fell within the mere expression of opinion.
Unfortunately, this understanding did not prevail in the second case. The TRF Class III Resolution for District One states that a criminal complaint cannot be dismissed without strong and prepared evidence that there is no intent to attack the objective or personal honor of the author. In addition, he draws on the professor’s extensive knowledge of legal standards as an argument for not ruling out deception of behavior, according to an excerpt from the rapporteur’s vote, Hon. Mr. Federal Judge Marlon Souza, reproduced below:
“Contrary to the inference given by the court, willful misconduct of the defendant cannot be excluded, at first sight. Even because of the plaintiff’s superb professional training, as well as his deep knowledge of legal standards, there is doubt as to the presence or absence of a subjective component in the proceedings. described in the complaint, whose criminal expressions are said to have not been released in the academic environment, giving her immunity from thought and criticism while on professorship”
In this sense, the court’s decision asserts that because of “brilliant professional training (…) and deep knowledge of legal standards”, a teacher should not show himself in this way, indicating that a citizen’s freedom of expression is inversely proportional to the freedom of expression of a citizen’s academic degree. In this case, it should be noted that there is no legal norm in the Brazilian Constitution that modifies the right to freedom of expression according to the level of education of a citizen.
The decision did not take into account the fact that any manifestation of the behavior of a public servant who has a professional profession is an investor in a public position – Mr. Augusto Arras – Subject to comments and criticism, both by the press and by any citizen, the right guaranteed to Professor Konrado Hubner freedom of expression should not be restricted.
mm statement. The tribunal of the third body of the TRF from the 1st. The area in which there would be malice in the conduct of Professor Hubner seems to us inappropriate, considering that any statement about a public figure bears an emphatic opinion. Therefore, it is ruthless for professors, when speaking publicly, to reveal their critical path, which is guaranteed by the Constitution by granting them the right to express themselves freely, especially when speaking about decisions made by a public official in the exercise of public office.
We understand that the advertisement cannot be called malicious because it is an opinion contrary to the interests of the Prosecutor General of the Republic, because if this were the case, any appearance critical of the public person would be rejected by the judiciary. Thus, censorship will be imposed in our country, something we can never accept in a democratic state of law.
It is worth noting that the losing vote of Judge Olivia Merlin Silva accompanied the opinion of the Federal Public Prosecutor in the following paragraph:
“A criminal proceeding relating to the practice of libel cannot be based solely on the possibility of unease with criticism that appears to the complainant to be aggravated or unfair, when the defendant, for better or for worse, exercises his duties as a political journalist by commenting on facts relevant and important to your readers.”
These actions affect not only Hubner, but also scholars, researchers, journalists, and intellectuals who engage in democratic resistance at a time when rights and institutions are under severe attack.
The Observatory will remain on the side of all those who, in the legitimate and legally guaranteed exercise of freedom of expression of thought, freedom of expression, and intellectual and scientific activity, find themselves feared and watched over by anyone. We will remain vigilant and alert to any attempt to silence democratic criticism and academic performance in Brazil.
São Paulo, April 26, 2022
Observatory of Research, Science and Freedom.
Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science.
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