Press release

Brazil: Serious crimes against free expression in 2012

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14 Mar 2013



New research published today by ARTICLE 19 reveals that 16 journalists and human rights defenders were murdered in 2012 for speaking about issues of public importance. 7 were journalists and 9 were human rights defenders.

The Brazilian authorities often say these killings are the result of random acts of violence. Our report refutes this claim and reveals that in nearly two thirds of cases, people were murdered because they had spoken out. We investigated 82 cases where media workers and human rights defenders were the victims of violence; in 64% of those, people were, more likely than not, killed for something they said. 

Worse still, state officials are directly implicated in carrying out the violent attacks in one in five cases.

Corruption at the local level is a block to addressing crimes against freedom of expression. The government must reform Act number 10.446 (2002) to ensure the federal police can take control of investigations and the federal prosecutor can prosecute these cases at the national level.

Read the cases of 


A journalist or human rights defender is murdered every 4 weeks in Brazil because of something they said. For every murder there are 3 more cases where a journalist or human rights defender has faced a serious attempt against or threat to their life. 

16 journalists and human rights defenders were killed for speaking out in 2012. 7 of those were journalists and 9 were human rights defenders.

We investigated 82 in which media workers and human rights defenders were the victims of violence. In almost two thirds of cases (52 cases or 64%) people were killed for something they said or did.

Type of violence

Number of cases





Attempted murder






Death threats






84% of all death threats (27 cases) were related to something a person had said or done.

Women account for just under a fifth of recorded death threats (19%).

21 death threats were made to journalists and 6 to human rights activists.

Who suffered violence? 

Twice as many journalists (30 compared with 17 human rights defenders) were victims of the most serious attacks on free expression (classified as murders and attempted murders).

The most serious cases of violence against journalists were directed towards people writing for popular blogs (44%).



Print journalists


Broadcast journalists


Online journalists


Broadcasters were the targets in 31% of the most serious cases of violence. Those working in television were slightly less likely to be a victim of violence than those working in radio (radio represented 17% and television 14%).

Geography of violence: 

There were more crimes against free expression in rural areas than in cities.

  • Almost half of all reported violence was in towns with a population of less than 100,000 people.
  • Including cities with populations of up to 500,000 people, this figure rises to 68%.
  • Less than a third of crimes against free expression took place in major cities (32%).
  • Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul and Maranhao were the most violent states.

Motivation for violence:

In almost three quarters of cases (74%) a specific allegation made against a public body or official or against a private company was the motivation for the violence.

Other motivating factors included expressing a critical opinion (17%); sharing information (4%); and participating in a demonstration (2%)

An agent of the state was implicated in almost one fifth of all cases of violence (18%).

Executive summary and full report

Read the full executive summary and download the full report here >

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