A Very Long Wait for Brazilian Justice
Ten years after a Brazilian court upheld a complaint over a defamatory campaign targeting Senior Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi, the latest appeal by one of the defendants the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute [Instituto Brasileiro do Crisotila (BCI)] was dismissed. The BCI had sought to reduce the size of the financial punishment imposed, saying it had not authored the libelous texts but only reproduced them. The fact of the matter was that the BCI disseminated the controversial material, which had been commissioned by asbestos industry stakeholders, via online portals, on television programs and in BCI newsletters.1
On August 18, 2023, a São Paulo Court rejected the BCIs claim and upheld the 2022 verdict of Judge Celso Lourenço Morgado which fined the BCI, the Mining Workers Union from the City of Minaçu [Sindicato dos Trabalhadores from Mineração de Minaçu] in the State of Goiás and journalist Luiz Carlos Bordoni the sum of R$20,000.00 (~US$5,800) each for moral damages.2
Commenting on this ruling, Fernanda Giannasi said:
It has been an exhausting process and I am grateful to my legal team and supporters for their hard work and solidarity since 2012. This legal action was about reclaiming my dignity, honor and reputation in the face of the outrageous denunciations made by the defendants who stated that I had behaved in a way that was illegal, irresponsible, authoritarian and reckless. In an article commissioned by the BCI, Bordoni went so far as to compare my behaviour with that of the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. I am relieved, not just for myself, but for other Brazilians who have been verbally or physically attacked for speaking out.
Fernanda Giannasi at asbestos demonstration in Paris, 2012.
Ms Giannasi has been a thorn in the side of the asbestos industry for more than 30 years. She has worked with members of the Brazilian Association of Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA) as well as social partners in trade unions, universities, the media, and legal and medical associations to expose the deadly lies told by asbestos stakeholders not only in Brazil but in countries around the world.
It is little wonder that after Ms Giannasi had finished giving evidence during asbestos hearings at the Brazilian Supreme Court in 2012, Judge Marco Aurélio remarked: Half of the people in this courtroom will be very glad when you retire next year. Aurélio's quip caused a ripple of laughter from Ms Giannasi's supporters and a groan of acknowledgment from her detractors amongst whom were asbestos stakeholders from industry and the government.3
For her campaigning work to support the asbestos-injured in Brazil and to end asbestos use at home and around the world, Ms Giannasi has received prestigious awards from Claudia magazine, CIPA magazine, O Globo newspaper, public health associations, medical bodies and civil society campaigners in Brazil, Japan, Italy, the US and elsewhere. On August 11, 2014, she received Brazils highest distinction when she was presented with the Order of Judicial Merit for Labor [Ordem do Merito do Trabalho] by Minister César Augusto Carvalho at a prestigious ceremony in Brasilia.4 The decision to bestow this honor upon her was taken by the Ministers of the Higher Labor Court in recognition of her tireless work to ban asbestos in Brazil. Clearly, in the court of public opinion, the probity of this Brazilian activist was never in any doubt; nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that the São Paulo Courts agree.
August 24, 2023
1 Malheiros, T. Justiça condena grupo acusado de ofender Fernanda Giannasi, premiada ativista na luta pelo banimento do cancerígeno amianto [Justice condemns group accused of offending Fernanda Giannasi, award-winning activist in the fight to ban the carcinogenic asbestos (see August 19, 2023 blog entry)].
2 Judge Celso Lourenço Morgado, Court of Justice of the State of São Paulo. Case Number: 0161487-53.2012.8.26.0100. Fernanda Giannasi vs Luiz Carlos Bordoni & others. October 31. 2022.
Kazan-Allen, L. Anger Growing in Brazil over Asbestos Crimes. January 20, 2023.
4 Kazan-Allen, L. Top Brazilian Award for Fernanda Giannasi. July 4, 2014.