International News: January 17, 2020

Brazil’s Supreme Court allows gay Jesus film on Netflix 

On Jan. 9, the president of Brazil’s Supreme Court issued an order that allows streaming service Netflix to continue exhibiting a satirical film depicting Jesus as a gay man and reaffirmed Brazilians’ right to free speech.

“It is not to be assumed that a humorous satire has the magic power to undermine the values of the Christian faith, whose existence goes back more than 2,000 years,” Supreme Court President Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli wrote in his decision.

Netflix earlier the same day filed an official complaint with the country’s top legal authority, decrying attempted censorship by a judge in Rio de Janeiro who ordered the film’s withdrawal from its platform. The film was never removed.

Still, the Rio 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 canceled since Bolsonaro took office just over one year ago.

On Jan. 8, judge Benedicto Abicair ruled against the film following a petition by a Brazilian Catholic organization that argued the “honor 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 gasoline 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 has 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 Santa Cruz, who has clashed with Bolsonaro in the past.

On Christmas Eve, several men threw gasoline bombs at the entrance of the headquarters of Porta dos Fundos. No one was injured.

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 humor.”

UK’s most prolific rapist targeted men, gets life in prison

A man described as “the most prolific rapist in British legal history” has been sentenced to life in prison with a possible release after 30 years following his conviction for sexual offenses against 48 men.

Authorities said the evidence against 36-year-old Reynhard Sinaga indicates he had many more victims, with roughly 195 men apparently having been filmed while being abused when they were in his apartment. Many were unconscious at the time.

Judge Suzanne Goddard said in Manchester Crown Court the true number of Sinaga’s victims may never be known.

“You are an evil serial sexual predator who has preyed upon young men who came into the city center wanting nothing more than a good night out with their friends,” she said. “One of your victims described you as a monster. The scale and enormity of your offending confirms this as an accurate description.”

She said the courts had rarely if ever seen such a prolonged “campaign of rape.” Reporting restrictions that had prevented the publication of Sinaga’s name were lifted on Jan. 6.

Prosecutors say Sinaga had a non-threatening manner. He befriended young men, including many who were intoxicated after a night out and offered them a place to stay at his apartment. He filmed many of the forced sexual encounters.

Prosecutor Ian Rushton said many victims initially thanked Sinaga for offering them accommodation.

“But once back at his flat, he used victims as objects purely for his own gratification,” Rushton said.

Sinaga arrived in Britain from his native Indonesia on a student visa in 2007. He received two degrees in sociology and planning from the University of Manchester and was studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Leeds when he was suspended following his arrest in 2017.

His thesis was called: “Sexuality and everyday transnationalism. South Asian gay and bisexual men in Manchester.”

His Manchester church offered a statement in support of his character that did not seem to sway the judge. n

Reporting via Associated Press