Renowned investigative journalist persecuted for exposing corruption and collusion in Brazil’s judicial system

The case was submitted to the IACHR in December 2021 and is currently under initial review.

In 2014, renowned Brazilian investigative journalist Rubens Valente published a book entitled Operação Banqueiro that detailed the story of a 2008 police operation that captured the attention of the country for involving the imprisonment and immediate release, for acts of corruption, of one of the most powerful bankers in Brazil. Valente was designated to work on the story as a reporter for the journal Folha do São Paulo. Years later, he published a book about it which exposed the role of Federal Supreme Court (STF for its Portuguese acronym) Justice Gilmar Mendes in ensuring banker Daniel Dantas evaded prison. Operação Banqueiro revealed the collusion between Dantas’s bank and members of the judicial system, particularly Justice Mendes who was, at the time, the president of the STF. Valente spent years investigating – during which time he reached out to Judge Mendes without response. Yet, shortly after the book was published, Judge Mendes sued Valente for defamation, citing “damage of image and honor.”

Though in the first instance the judge dismissed Mendes’s suit, through a series of appeals, Justice Mendes has openly exploited his connections to completely railroad Valente. In 2016, an appellate court sentenced Mr. Valente to pay compensation for defamation. In another appellate judgment by the Superior Tribunal de Justiça, handed down by a judge who had a close professional relationship with Mendes, Valente was mandated to print Mendes’s original petition and the judgment labeling him as defamatory in every new copy of his book. In addition, Valente was also ordered to pay Justice Mendes BRL 310,000 (approximately $60,000) in damages, and, when the publishing company that published his book declared bankruptcy, Valente was named a joint debtor, meaning he would have to pay their debt as well! Throughout this years-long legal process, Justice Mendes continued to adjudicate cases with very clear conflicts of interest, including favorably deciding cases litigated by his own lawyer.

Why is this a key case?

Independent journalism and an accountable judiciary are integral to a free and democratic State where human rights are respected. Valente’s case exemplifies how a corrupt judiciary protects wrongdoers and perpetuates human rights violations. Valente’s years of experience in some of Brazil’s largest and most respected journalistic institutions prove him to be a trustworthy journalist. Justice Mendes is using the power a broken system has granted him to carry out a personal vendetta against Valente.

Furthermore, journalists in Brazil are facing a crisis of increased persecution as Brazil’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index continues to plummet: ranking 58th in 2010, and 111th in 2021. In the year 2020 alone, 580 attacks were carried out against the media in Brazil, and all the while, Brazil’s president Jair Bolosonaro regularly makes public statements vilifying the press.

How is RFKHR supporting the case?

Valente’s lawyer, Cesar Klouri, along with Media Defence, Abraji, and RFKHR are taking the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hold Brazil internationally responsible for the violation of Valente’s human rights to freedom of expression, due process, and others. If the Commission finds Brazil responsible, the State could face added international pressure to compensate Valente and adjust laws and policies to ensure similar violations do not happen again.

Name of the Case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Rubens Valente vs. Brasil

Month/Year of Filing

December 2021

Legal Mechanism in which the case is being litigated

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (or found to have been violated)

Article 8 (right to fair trial) Article 11 (right to privacy), Article 13 (freedom of thought and expression, Article 21 (right to property), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Procedural stage

Initial study by the Commission


Cesar Klouri, Media Defence, Abraji, RFKHR

Case Partners

  • Abraji

    We partnered to protect freedom of expression, due process, and others in Brazil by taking the case of Rubens Valente vs. Brasil before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

  • Media Defence

    We partnered to protect freedom of expression, due process, and others in Brazil by taking the case of Rubens Valente vs. Brasil before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.