Published September 26, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO – A judge in Brazil has ordered YouTube to remove clips of the movie that has touched off deadly protests across the Muslim world, the court said in a statement.
Judge Gilson Delgado Miranda gave the video-sharing site ten days to remove videos of the film, "Innocence of Muslims." After that, YouTube's parent company, Google, will face fines of $5,000 a day for every day the clips remain accessible in Brazil, according to the statement posted on the court's website late Tuesday .
The lawsuit was filed by a group representing Brazil's Muslim community, the National Union of Islamic Entities, which claims the film violates Brazil's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all faiths.
In a statement on the group's website, Mohamad al Bukai, the head of religious matters for the Sao Paulo-based organization, hailed the ruling as a victory.
"Freedom of expression must not be confused with giving disproportionate and irresponsible offense, which can provoke serious consequences for society," al Bukai said.
The statement also includes excerpts from the ruling, in which the judge stresses "this type of jurisprudence cannot be confused with censorship," which he defines as "the undue restriction of the civic consciousness."
Courts or officials in other countries also have sought to restrict access to clips of "Innocence of Muslims," renewing the debate over freedom of expression in the Middle East, the United States and Europe.
The film's portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, has enraged many Muslims. At least 51 people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed in violence linked to protests over the film.
The Sao Paulo court's ruling came on the same day that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff addressed the United Nations and urged an end to prejudice against Muslims.
The ruling follows a rash of other Brazilian court rulings against Google stemming from Brazil's strict electoral laws, which restrict what critics can say on television and radio about candidates for office. Ahead of municipal elections next month, Google has been repeatedly requested to remove videos that violate those restrictions, and on Tuesday, a judge in Mato Grosso do Sul state ordered the arrest of the head of Google's operations in Brazil for failure to remove YouTube videos that attacked a mayoral candidate.
Google said in an emailed statement on Tuesday that it was appealing the decisions regarding electoral laws and content removal. The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about the "Innocence of Muslims" case.
Earlier this month a judge in Parana state in southern Brazil ordered that Google pay $500,000 for each day that it balked in fulfilling an order to remove videos from YouTube that attacked a candidate. In the northeastern state of Paraiba, a judge also ordered the imprisonment of another Google executive in Brazil earlier this month, also for not removing videos from YouTube attacking a mayoral candidate. That order was overruled by a higher court.