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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Escalating violence placed Brazil among the most dangerous countries for journalists in 2012



Press freedom in Brazil was hostage to violence against journalists in 2012. Just days before the end of 2012, another case was announced that illustrated the escalating hostility and threats against reporters. The celebrated investigative journalist Mauri König, director of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism and reporter for the newspaper Gazeta do Povo, had to flee his home and take shelter in a secure location after receiving death threats.

König and his family were the targets of threatening phone calls made to the newsroom of the newspaper after the publication of reports denouncing corruption and police abuse in the state of Paraná. In one of the phone calls, the caller warned that five police officers from Rio de Janeiro were in Curitiba to attack his home.

A day before König was forced to go into hiding, the reporter André Caramante of the newspaper Folha de São Paulo returned to Brazil after three months in exile. The journalist was being followed and had to flee the country after writing an article about Paulo Telhada, an ex-commander of the ROTA, a controversial elite police unit, and a councilman in São Paulo who used his Facebook page to incite violence against criminal suspects.

These two recent cases illustrate the growing risks journalists face in Brazil, especially those who report on sensitive topics like drug trafficking and corruption. In the middle of this hostile environment, the Secretary of Human Rights announced it was considering the creation of federal program dedicated to protecting threatened journalists in Brazil, according to UOL.

Studies report a rise in the number of killed journalists

Brazil emerged as one of the most lethal countries in the world for journalists in 2012, according to analyses from international organizations dedicated to press freedom. All of them reported a rise in the violence against journalists compared to years past.

According to Reporters Without Borders' annual study, Brazil ended the year as the fifth most dangerous country in the world for press workers, with five killings connected to their journalistic work, up from three in 2011.

The Press Emblem Campaign highlighted that there has never been so many killed journalists in Brazil and ranked the country as the fourth worst in the world, tied with Mexico, to practice journalism. The group registered 11 homicides of journalists in 2012. Last year, the number was almost half, at six.

The Committee to Project Journalists confirmed four cases of journalists killed because of their profession in 2012, the highest number in a decade. According to CPJ, the country is historically one of the most dangerous for the press but there had been a dip in deaths between 2005 and 2010, making the recent uptick especially concerning.

The disparity between the figures is due to different criteria used by each organization to determine whether or not the crime is related to the victim's work as a journalist.

Among the killed journalists listed by the organizations are Laércio de Souza, Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, Onei de Moura, Divino Aparecido Caravalho, Décio Sá, and Valério Luiz de Oliveira, Luis Henrique Georges, Anderson Leandro da Silva, Edmilson de Souza, and Eduardo Carvalho.

The majority of these reporters lost their life after denouncing the influence of criminal gangs in political and economic sectors, local corruption cases and crimes linked to drug trafficking.

The lack of rigorous prosecution of these crimes is one of the reason impunity persists in Brazil. Hardly 10 percent of homicides are solved in Brazil, according to a study by the newspaper O Globo. These low success rate reflects the country's place on CPJ's impunity index.

The municipal elections, which took place in October 2012, also contributed to the climate of insecurity for journalists, who suffered censorship and hostilities from candidates and their supporters.



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