Knight Center
Knight Center


Brazilian ministry denounces feminist magazine before public prosecutor for report on abortion

The Brazilian Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights (MMFDH, for its initials in Portuguese) sent a complaint to the São Paulo Public Prosecutor about a report published by the feminist magazine AzMina about abortion, considering that the article “may encourage the clandestine practice” of terminating pregnancy.

In addition to the complaint filed by the Brazilian government, journalists of the magazine say they are being targeted by online attacks with threats and incitement to violence against them, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The report "Safe abortion: how pregnancy is terminated with misoprostol" was published on Sept. 18 and provides information on abortion performed with drugs, according to recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), that are followed by the Ministry of Health in Brazil in cases of legal abortion, as the report explains.

The article explains that voluntary termination of pregnancy is considered a crime in Brazil and is only legal in cases of pregnancy due to rape, fetal anencephaly and when there is a risk of death for the pregnant woman.

The magazine published a tweet on the 18th with the link to the report, which soon received responses from social network users with insults against the journalists responsible for the story. Many also tagged the profiles of Damares Alves, minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, of the Federal Police, the Federal Public Prosecutor, and of other authorities, calling for the magazine to be sanctioned for disclosing information about abortion caused by drugs.

On the 19th, Minister Alves referred to the report as “absurd” and “an apology for crime” in a post on her Twitter profile. “We have already forwarded the complaint,” she wrote.

To the Knight Center, the MMFDH said it "received a complaint and referred it to the Ombudsman of the Public Prosecutor of São Paulo, which is responsible for analyzing the complaint." The Ministry also stated that "the article includes recipes on how to practice an abortion, which may encourage clandestine practice."

"The publication explains in detail how to use abortifacients, giving names of drugs and the doses to be taken," the Ministry continued. The MMFDH did not spell out from whom it received the complaint, but said that "according to the complainants, such an initiative may lead young people to try to apply the recipe on their own."

In addition to the complaint filed by the MMFDH in São Paulo, Sara Winter, the Ministry's national coordinator of maternity policies, filed a complaint against AzMina magazine with the Rio de Janeiro Public Prosecutor, as she posted on her Twitter profile. “Let's put feminists in their proper place: behind bars!” she wrote.

“We only disclose information that was already public, from the World Health Organization, as well as information we hear from medical sources, and transmit that information. We believe this is doing journalism, a right guaranteed in the Constitution,” Carolina Oms, director of AzMina magazine, told the Knight Center.

According to her, the magazine's profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have received comments and messages with insults against journalists from the magazine. Twitter users also disclosed addresses of team professionals, but the posts were reported by other users and taken down by the social network.

In a note published on the 20th, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) stated that "in a democratic environment, everyone should be free to cover any subject as they see fit."

“Criticism of outlets and journalists should also be free – it is normal for their work to be scrutinized by participants in the public sphere. But democracy itself becomes a target when criticism turns into attacks, especially if they are amplified by public office holders and elected representatives,” the association said.

Abraji also expressed solidarity with the journalists of AzMina magazine and repudiated "the digital harassment they are victims of." "The association also appeals to the Federal and São Paulo Public Prosecutors not to follow up on possible criminal representations against the professionals and the magazine, in fulfillment of their role in safeguarding freedom of expression," the organization wrote.

The National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) also expressed solidarity with the journalists responsible for the reporting and repudiated the minister's attitude.

FENAJ stands by the journalists who are victims of the attacks and reaffirms the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of the press for the consolidation of democracy. We demand from public authorities that they preserve constitutional rights, guaranteeing journalists the right to free exercise of their profession to fulfill their duty to inform without any hindrance.”

RSF also condemned the attacks on the magazine's staff and stated that "pluralism and freedom of opinion are increasingly threatened in today’s Brazil.”

“The attacks on AzMina, like those on The Intercept Brasil, are symptomatic of the difficulties encountered by journalists covering sensitive and divisive subjects in Brazil, where campaigns of harassment and intimidation against the media have become more frequent and intense since Jair Bolsonaro took over as president in January,” the organization said, adding that Brazil is ranked 105th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2018.”


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