Octavio Frias de Oliveira, 94; newspaper publisher fought for freedom of the press in Brazil

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Octavio Frias de Oliveira, 94, who published Brazil’s biggest newspaper in print and on the Web and helped modernize the country’s media, died Sunday of kidney failure at his home in Sao Paulo, his company, Grupo Folha, said.

Frias led an opening of the media during Brazil’s military dictatorship, allowing critical opinions of the regime to appear in his flagship Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. He also was among the first to publish on the Web.

The son of a judge, Frias was born in Rio de Janeiro. His family moved to Sao Paulo when he was a child. After working as a civil servant and in real estate, Frias bought Folha.

Two years later, Brazil’s military overthrew the democratically elected government.


Despite the crackdown on civil rights and free speech, Frias maintained his independence, giving voice to dictatorship critics and supporters alike.

In the 1960s, Frias was the first publisher in Brazil to institute an ombudsman to cast a critical eye on Folha’s reporting. He also devoted Page 3 of the newspaper to publishing opinions for and against the military regime.