Famous Brazilian songwriters -- long activists for freedom of expression -- are themselves coming under fire as they fight an attempt to overturn a law allowing celebrities to veto unauthorized biographies.

The debate emerged when the well-known musicians, including Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and others, spoke out against an initiative by book publishers to have the law declared unconstitutional.

The artists' vehement opposition drew accusations they were now seeking to reinforce the type of censorship they had always fought.

The songwriters are turning from "being censored to the agents of censorship," an editorial in Brazilian newspaper O Globo alleged Thursday. "There is no difference from what the dictatorship imposed on them."

A reader of the Folha newspaper wondered "What happened to Caetano, our idol, who sang 'it's forbidden to forbid,'" amid furious commentary from biography authors and other writers.

But Veloso strenuously denied the charges against him and his fellow songwriters, in his own commentary Sunday in O Globo.

"Me a censor? Over my dead body," the popular singer wrote.

The fight is not about censorship, he said, but about protecting privacy.

"Freedom is nice but not infinite," Veloso wrote, quoting lyrics by another Brazilian singer, Jorge Mautner.

He and several other musicians have circulated an article on Facebook saying they "don't advocate censorship," but they are fighting to avoid "the exploitation of work and lives of others without remuneration" and to ensure that "privacy not be violated."

In one well-known example, singer-songwriter Roberto Carlos, known in Brazil as "the king," has used the law to block publication of an unauthorized biography about him for years.

 

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