By Sarah Brown, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following several inspections from the Regional Election Tribunal of Rio, a total of more than ninety tons of unauthorized election propaganda has been seized within the municipality as the 2014 elections set for October 5th draw nearer.
While certain approaches to propaganda distribution remains illegal, it is still a common practice and this is not the first incident of such an occurrence in Rio. In 2012 during the elections for local councilors and mayors in state capitals, hundreds of arrests were made as supporters attempted to win over undecided electors by handing out flyers for candidates close to voting centers. This practice is forbidden in Brazil.
At the tunnel exit of Zuzu Angel at São Conrado, a pile of election cards, flyers and placards were left on the ground. Last Saturday, September 20th, a reporter from O Globo reportedly witnessed a seizure of thirteen tons of propaganda in Zona Oeste (West Zone) of Rio de Janeiro.
Sidney Assunção, João Ricardo Ferrari and Maurício da Rocha, electoral prosecutors that analyze the cases of illegal propaganda, counted approximately 1,010 cases of illegal election propaganda since the beginning of the campaign, which averages to thirteen cases per day.
According to legislation, campaign material should not be placed in overpasses, walkways, bridges or bus stops. The reasoning behind this is that these sites are public places and advertising of such nature causes property damage as well as disruption and disturbance to pedestrians. However, as the elections draw increasingly closer, this law is often overlooked as supporters seek to convince voters to swing in favor of certain candidates.
The law of the use of medians of propaganda remains unclear. Yet according to the information from the court of law, each case is assessed individually on a case-to-case basis. This is necessary to abide to the guarantee granted by the court of the right of candidates to create their own propaganda.
Punishment of propaganda placed in unauthorized sites, especially places of common use, is strict with fines between R$2,000 and R$8,000 plus mandatory restoration of property. This may also apply to propaganda pitched at cinemas, clubs, churches, walls and even trees, which penalties given to the candidates.
In the case of public roads, political candidates may use easels and other related propaganda from 6AM until 10PM, provided that they do not disturb the traffic nor affect the movement of pedestrians. In the case of disrespect to these conditions, the electoral propaganda will be seized. According to the ‘a Cartilha do Candidato’ (the Candidate Guidebook) available on the TRE-RJ website, “attention must be taken to hygiene and urban aesthetics” in relation to propaganda.
Other conditions to abide to include the size of the placards which must meet the stated size limit. The court demands that it is banned from outdoor use and only propaganda of up to 4 m² is permitted. Any propaganda that defies this clause in the law will incur fines of between R$5,330 to R$15,961 charged to the politician.