Sixty U.S. Specialists on Brazil Defend the Academic Freedom of Conrado Mendes
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Message from Conrado Hubner Mendes:
"Quero agradecer imensamente a US Network for Democracy in Brazil pela manifestação de solidariedade que recebi. É fundamental que a comunidade acadêmica nacional e estrangeira se mostre atenta e coesa diante de um sistemático uso da lei para assediar e intimidar a liberdade acadêmica, e se mobilize para agir politicamente contra esses ataques."
The Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA), the largest international professional organization whose members study Brazil, and sixty Brazil specialists working in the United States, including professors from Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and Brown Universities, have joined an international letter in support of Conrado Hübner Mendes, the law professor charged with the crimes of libel, defamation and slander for articles written in the Folha de São Paulo.
In May 2021 the Attorney General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Court accusing Conrado Hübner Mendes of committing these crimes, which could lead to a prison sentence. On August 15, the judge of the 12th Federal Criminal Court of the Federal District rejected the complaint as she understood that there was no just cause to criminally prosecute the professor, whose opinions are protected by the right to freedom of expression. It is still possible to for the government to appeal this decision.
Moreover, in June, the Minister of the Federal Supreme Court, Nunes Marques, asked the Attorney General's Office to investigate and hold Conrado Hübner Mendes responsible for the crimes of libel, defamation and insult. This representation was forwarded by the Attorney to the Federal Police for investigation of the case, which may result in the offering of a criminal complaint against the Mendes.
According to James N. Green, a former president of the Brazilian Studies Association, a professor of Brazilian history at Brown University, and National Co-coordinator of the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil, “Scholars working on Brazil in the United States are greatly concerned about this effort to quell free speech and wish to show our solidarity with Conrado Mendes.”
The signers endorsed an open letter circulating internationally, which states in part: “Criticizing public authorities for any decisions related to their office is a fundamental right. . . If academic freedom is impaired and respected intellectuals like Professor Conrado Hübner Mendes are illegitimately punished, Brazil will be taking further steps toward autocracy and authoritarianism, making it even more difficult to call a halt to this tragedy.”
For more information contact: James_Green@brown.edu
The full statement can be found at the top of this page.