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Brazil's supreme courts lifts ban on film that depicts Jesus as gay

by Press Association

The president of Brazil's supreme court has issued an order that allows streaming service Netflix to continue showing a film that depicts Jesus as a gay man and reaffirmed Brazilians' right to free speech.

Earlier the same day Netflix filed a complaint to the court, after a ruling from Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair who ordered its removal.

Netflix said: "We strongly support artistic expression and we'll be fighting to defend this important principle, which goes to the heart of great storytelling."

The film was never removed from the platform.

The  judge's ruling has revived scrutiny on what his critics call censorship under the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

His administration has vowed to fight "cultural Marxism" and openly supports Christian values. Several shows, plays and conferences have been cancelled since Mr Bolsonaro took office just over a year ago.

On Wednesday, Mr Abicair ruled against the film following a petition by a Brazilian Catholic organisation that argued the "honour of millions of Catholics" was hurt by the airing of The First Temptation of Christ.

The special was produced by the Rio-based comedy group Porta dos Fundos, whose headquarters was targeted by petrol bombs on Christmas Eve.

In its complaint filed to the supreme court, Netflix's lawyers argued that the judge's decision amounts to censorship and had an impact "equivalent to that of the bomb used in the terrorist attack against the headquarters" of the comedy group. "It silences by means of fear and intimidation."

Felipe Santa Cruz, president of the Brazilian Bar Association, said the ruling went against the Brazilian constitution, which guarantees free expression in the arts, science and communication.

"Any form of censorship or threat to this hard-won freedom is a setback and cannot be accepted by society," said Mr Santa Cruz, who has clashed with Bolsonaro in the past.

Porta dos Fundos said in a statement that it stands "against any act of censorship, violence, illegality, authoritarianism and all the things we no longer expected to have to repudiate in 2020. Our job is to make humour."


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