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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Press freedom violations increase in Brazil by 65% in 2016, says Abert report



Although the number of murders of Brazilian journalists has dropped to only two cases in 2016, violations against the press have manifested in other ways. The annual report from the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (Abert) reported that, compared to 2015, last year saw a 65.5 percent increase in cases of violations to freedom of expression.

The institution verified 11 different types of violations and registered a jump from 116 to 192 occurrences last year. The most common form of violation continues to be physical aggression with 67 cases (64 in 2015).

Most of these occurrences took place during demonstrations that once again took over the country, which is going through a turbulent political and economic crisis. Police officers were the aggressors in 27 of the cases; demonstrators in 14.

“There is, in fact, for security forces and part of the demonstrators, a lack of understanding of the role of the press, which is to cover and report the facts. This leads to aggression,” Abert president Paulo Tonet Camargo told the Knight Center.

In fact, most of the aggressions generally come from public power, both in the form of police officers and security officers, as well as politicians and civil servants. According to Tonet Camargo, one way to change this scenario is to educate security forces about how to act toward the press, especially during demonstrations.

“We are awaiting the appointment of the new Justice Minister to deliver the new report, to request measures from the public authority to train the security forces, to fundamentally understand the role of the press present during the protests,” he said.

Other violations include verbal offenses (22 cases), threats (19), convictions and judicial decisions (18), intimidation (17), attacks and vandalism to media buildings and cars (17), censorship (12), detentions (7), personal attacks (6), robberies and thefts (4) and a case of sexual harassment. The latter occurred when funk singer MC Biel made improper comments to journalist Giulia Pereira, of site iG, during a video interview.

A notable record concerns judicial decisions, which jumped from 2 in 2015 to 18 in the past year. Of the cases identified, 12 were contrary to the interests of independent journalism according to Abert, such as the breach of telephone privacy of Estado de S. Paulo journalist Andreza Matais. However, as Toneto Camargo pointed out, most of the decisions that attack freedom of the press were delivered by judges in the first instance and were later corrected in higher courts.

“The major attempts to curtail freedom of expression have been corrected in higher courts. Perhaps there is a lack of understanding by these judges in the first instances regarding freedom of expression,” he said.

Brazil remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist. As Abert’s report points out, rankings by Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French) for the last five years put Brazil near the top of the list of the most dangerous countries in Latin America for journalists, second only to Mexico. In the world, Brazil ranks 104 in 2016 in the Press Freedom Index. For the Press Emblem Campaign, the country was the 10th most dangerous in the world in 2016.

Despite the worrying numbers, there is a positive finding in the report: a decrease in the number of murders. The statistic is even more significant when compared to 2015, when eight journalists were killed – three in the span of 11 days, in what international journalism organizations called “black November of Brazil.”

This is a trend observed around the world: RSF, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also recorded decreases in their global indices. In the report, it is highlighted that, for RSF, this decrease is due to the flight of journalists from countries at risk; CPJ evaluated that the decrease could come from the decision of media outlets to avoid sending teams to risky situations.

Despite the positive decline in murders, Tonet Camargo pointed out that the press should remain alert. “I would rather celebrate when our rates of violence decrease and when our press freedom ranking rises,” he said.

To this end, Tonet Camargo pointed out that journalist organizations and associations play an important role. He suggested the creation of an observatory for violations of press freedom.

“Fundamentally, it is necessary that associations and journalists come together to seek to form an observatory to verify violations of press freedom, as well as to verify the criteria for evaluating these indices,” he said.



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