SAO PAOLO, Brazil – The president of the Republic of Brazil has been sanctioned by a court and ordered to pay indemnification for “moral damages” stemming from his use of sexual innuendo to discredit the veracity of reports by Folha de S. Paulo journalist Patricia Campos Mello, repeating an accusation that she had offered sex in exchange for damaging information about him. In Brazil, such a charge, when unfounded, is considered a sexual harassment offense.
Campos Mello’s report pointed out that digital marketing company Yacows’ possible participation in a message-triggering scheme through WhatsApp during the elections that fraudulently issued national identification numbers to generate texts in names of politicians, disseminating fake news. A former Yacows employee first made the accusation against Campos Mello without presenting any proof.
The reporter sued, asking for R$50k–about $8700–in damages for pain and suffering.
The judge’s ruling said, “It remained evident that the defendant’s individual exercise of the right to freedom of expression violated the plaintiff’s honor, causing her moral damage, and should therefore be held responsible.”
Bolsonaro was ordered to pay a $3,500 fine plus court and attorney fees. He has 15 days to appeal.
“It is a great day for women journalists. A great day for professional journalism,” said the Brazilian group Journalists Against Harassment, in a tweet.
By Milan Sime Martinic