Universal Periodic Review: Brazil must ensure an end to violence against journalists and commit to media pluralism
25 May 2012
ARTICLE 19 has called upon member states of the United Nations to highlight freedom of expression and information in Brazil at the country’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review on 25 May. ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the following issues:
- Challenges to media pluralism and diversity
- Risk of inadequate internet regulation
- Overuse of defamation and persistence of desacato laws
- Violence against journalist and human rights defenders
- Challenges to the implementation of the new Access to Information Law
- Lack of proper consultation and limited access to information regarding large development projects
Challenges to media pluralism
The 1962 Telecommunications Code, which controls the operation of media outlets, is technically and technologically outdated. Brazil has failed to introduce effective regulatory policies that allow independent public and community broadcasters to develop. Media ownership in Brazil has largely been concentrated in the hands of few, including congress representatives who hold TV and radio licenses. Licensing procedures are overly bureaucratic and lack transparency.
Risk of inadequate internet regulations
Provisions in the proposed Bill on Cybercrimes (Projeto de Lei Azeredo) may limit free expression online due to its vague and open-ended definitions. The Bill also obligates internet service providers to disclose information on any crime that may have been committed through the internet, which will have a chilling effect on the free flow of information online.
Overuse of defamation and persistence of desacato laws that prohibit insult of public officials
The high number of criminal and civil defamation cases are a threat to freedom of expression. In civil cases, indemnification amounts are disproportionate and have resulted, at least in one case, in the closing down of a newspaper. The common use of injunctions even in cases of important public interest may amount to pre-censorship and limit the dissemination of public information.
Violence against journalist and human rights defenders
There were at least six cases of journalists being killed in 2011 (four of them proven as a consequence of their professional activities), and another four (3 journalists and 1 human rights defender) have been recorded already in 2012. The majority of cases of violence against journalists and human rights defenders relate to the publication of investigative pieces against public officials focussing on cases of corruption and illegal activities. Organised crime syndicates, corrupt politicians and police officers appear to be the main perpetrators.
Challenges to the implementation of the new Access to Information Law
ARTICLE 19 also expressed concern about the implementation of the new Access to Information Law, which came in to effect in May 2012. The law lacks an independent body to review appeals made for access to public information.
Lack of proper consultation and limited access to information regarding large development projects
ARTICLE 19 has monitored the levels of public consultations, especially with minorities and indigenous groups, and observed that proper access to information about projects, including in relation to displacement and severe deterioration of environmental conditions, have been denied to affected communities.
In response to these concerns, ARTICLE 19 calls on the UN Human Rights Council to make the following recommendations to the government of Brazil:
- Reform broadcasting legislation based on international freedom of expression standards, especially those on plurality diversity, access to information, public participation and social monitoring.
- The Bill on Cybercrimes should not be adopted and any future law on cybercrimes should conform to international freedom of expression standards
- All criminal defamation and desacato provisions should be repealed and replaced by appropriate civil defamation laws. Proper training should be provided to the judiciary on defamation and other freedom of expression related issues and clear guidelines regarding civil defamation lawsuits should be introduced, especially in regard to the use of injunctions and the setting of indemnification amounts
- All cases of killings and other forms of violence against media professionals and human rights defenders should be effectively, promptly and independently investigated and those responsible should be held accountable. Protection programs for journalists, and whistleblowers reporting on violence, corruption, or other forms abuse of power should be strengthened
- The Government should commit to full and timely implementation of the Access to Public Information Law, ensuring that the bodies in charge of enforcing it act in an autonomous and unbiased manner
- The Government should ensure the occurrence of proper consultations in all large-scale development projects affecting indigenous peoples. It should guarantee that the rights to freedom of expression and information of all impacted by such projects are respected and fulfilled, especially through the proper provision of information during all phases of the project, organisation of public hearings with adequate prior notice and with respect to local languages and allowing for the effective participation of these groups during the environmental licensing procedures.
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