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May 29, 2020

Fake news network under investigation in Brazil

National

May 29, 2020

RIO DE JANEIRO: The Brazilian Supreme Court investigates a propaganda machine funded by tycoons and run by bloggers, journalists, and lawmakers.

Brazil's Federal Supreme Court (STF) judge Alexandre De Moraes Wednesday issued 29 search warrants against President Jair Bolsonaro's allies who are being investigated for forming a fake news network popularly known as "the Hate Office."

The criminal association investigation is directed against a far-right propaganda machine funded by tycoons and run by bloggers, journalists, and lawmakers. “The collected evidence and expert opinions pointed to the existence of a criminal association dedicated to the dissemination of false news, attacks on people, authorities, and institutions, such as the Supreme Court, with contents of hatred, subversion of order, and incentives to break the democratic institutions,” Judge De Moraes said, reported foreign media.

As a reaction to the judicial investigation, the Brazilian president reacted by attacking the Supreme Court again and arguing that its order "hurts" democracy. "Seeing good citizens having their homes invaded, for exercising their right to freedom of expression, is a sign that something very serious is happening with our democracy," Bolsonaro tweeted while his sons also described the court's order as "unconstitutional" and "dictatorial."

The federal judge ordered the breaking of the fiscal and banking secrecy of Luciano Hang, a tycoon who owns a chain of stores famous for having the Statue of Liberty as his symbol.

Justice will also access the financial records of the humorist Reynaldo Bianchi, who is known in Brazil for his portrayal of a fascist Harry Potter-type character.

Analysts have pointed out that the local affiliate of Steve Bannon, who was behind the fake news machinery that supported Donald Trump in the last US presidential campaign, was represented by these allies of Bolsonaro.

According to outlet Folha de Sao Paulo, President Bolsonaro fears that his son Carlos, a Rio de Janeiro councilor and social media strategist, maybe the next target of the court's raids. "This investigation is unconstitutional, political and ideological," Carlos Bolsonaro said, thus evidencing his anger at a court order that took him by surprise.

The judicial authorities are also investigating six federal lawmakers who are part of President Bolsonaro's shock troop in the Chamber of Deputies. Among them is Luiz Phillipe Orleans e Bragança, a descendant of the Brazilian royal family that ruled the country until 1889.

The judicial offensive also made another famous person from the Brazilian right reappear: Roberto Jefferson, the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) president, who recently appeared in a video carrying an automatic rifle and saying that judges could not face a shotgun with a toga.

The residences of two far-right media figures were also raided, one of whom is Sara Gironimi, who commands the "300 of Brazil", a camp that indoctrinates people against communism.

Currently, the Brazilian Supreme Court is investigating whether Bolsonaro attempted to manipulate Federal Police investigations involving his family and allies.