Rio de Janeiro Court maintains criminal complaint against Aos Fatos, and organizations denounce intimidation of journalism

22 de agosto de 2023, 19h47

The judge of the 6th Criminal Chamber of the TJ-RJ (State Court of Rio de Janeiro), Marcelo Castro Anátocles da Silva Ferreira, denied on Tuesday (August 22nd) a request to dismiss a criminal complaint filed by Jornal da Cidade Online against the executive director of Aos Fatos, Tai Nalon. Accused of defamation and unfair competition for investigating the dissemination and monetization of fake news by the website, Nalon requested the cancellation of the action and the instruction hearing.

The criminal complaint is another episode of judicial harassment perpetrated by Jornal da Cidade Online, under investigation by the TSE (Superior Electoral Court) and the STF (Supreme Federal Court) for participating in and financially benefiting from disinformation campaigns.

The instruction and trial hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday (August 23rd) at the headquarters of the TJ-RJ. Journalism defense organizations, in a statement, condemned the decision to continue the process, criticized the criminalization of the press, and labeled the hearing as a “blatant attack on the right to access information and the right to inform.”

“Within their duty and right to inform, Aos Fatos and Tai Nalon only reported on the systematic activities of the company, constantly denounced for producing and disseminating disinformation,” said Abraji, Ajor, Fenaj, Instituto Vladimir Herzog, Intervozes, Reporters Without Borders, and Tornavoz. “We hope that the Rio de Janeiro justice system puts an end to this attempt at intimidation and to the chilling effect that this strategy of judicial persecution causes to victims and journalists collectively.”


Published by Aos Fatos in April 2020, the article that triggered the action has been under censorship since June following a decision by the TJ-RS (Court of Justice of Rio Grande do Sul). The investigation revealed that Jornal da Cidade Online shared monetization tools and strategies via Google AdSense with a series of portals, including Verdade Sufocada, maintained by the widow of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra (1932–2015), the first military officer convicted for kidnapping and torture during the military dictatorship (1964–1985). The investigation was based on codes shared by a network of sites, as later detailed by Jornal da Cidade Online itself.

According to the defense lawyers of the executive director of Aos Fatos in the habeas corpus request, Jornal da Cidade Online “tries to coerce a journalist into silence due to dissatisfaction with a report that followed all investigation protocols, including contacting the other party to hear their version of the facts.”

The defense also argues that "the animus of merely reporting a fact eliminates the intent to offend, under penalty of objective criminal liability and criminalization of the very activity of journalism.


STF is investigating Jornal da Cidade Online in Inquiry 4,828, which examines anti-democratic acts. In a report on the case, Minister Alexandre de Moraes stated that evidence and proof pointed to the existence of a “true criminal organization, with strong digital activity and nuclei of production, publication, financing, and politics.” As part of this network, the publication had a “significant increase” in revenue from advertising through Google AdSense shortly after the 2018 elections, according to the investigation.

According to the final report of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry about Covid-19, conducted in the Senate in 2021, Jornal da Cidade Online is part of a “group formed by organizations that appear to function as journalistic companies” but without “the necessary commitment to the ethical principles of the profession, such as the dissemination of accurate and correct information.”

The final report of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry about Fake News mentions Jornal da Cidade Online as part of a disinformation network. The site's owner is also mentioned in a TSE investigation as part of a group engaged in “deliberate production and exponential dissemination of news known to be false” during the 2022 presidential elections. The court also ordered the demonetization of the Jornal da Cidade Online's YouTube channel for sharing misinformation about electronic voting machines.

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