Satire banned from Brazil election
Published 17/08/2010 | 15:52
Make no joke about it, Brazil's presidential election is a serious affair, devoid of wry jabs, side-splitting Top 10 lists or lampooning of politicians.
The reason? Brazilian TV and radio broadcasters are legally forbidden from making fun of candidates ahead of the nation's October 3 election and a possible second-round run-off on October 31.
With the first wave of on-air political adverts starting on Tuesday, Brazil's comedians and satirists are planning to fight for their right to ridicule with protests in Rio de Janeiro and other cities on Sunday.
They call the anti-joking law - which prohibits ridiculing candidates in the three months before elections - a draconian relic of Brazil's dictatorship that threatens free speech and a blight on the reputation of Latin America's largest nation.
"Do you know of any other democracy in the world with rules like this?" said Marcelo Tas, the acerbic host of a weekly TV comedy show that skewers politicians and celebrities alike. "If you want to find a bigger joke, you would have to look to Monty Python."
Proponents say the restrictions keep candidates from being portrayed unfairly, help ensure a level playing field and encourage candour by candidates.
The law has become a hot, trending topic for Brazilian users of Twitter and the focus of newspaper and magazine columns as well as debates at public seminars.
Mr Tas was a comedian-turned-reporter who needled politicians near the end of Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship, bluntly calling out corrupt leaders when few others dared.
But 25 years after the return of democracy, his current show, CQC, is muted during the run-up to the election that will replace centre-left President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The 50-year-old TV host calls it a "very particular Brazilian type of madness".
Making fun of candidates on air ahead of elections is punishable by fines up to 112,000 dollars (£71,800) and a broadcast-licence suspension.