Brazil: 82 attacks on journalists covering the coronavirus pandemic

Brazil: 82 attacks on journalists covering the coronavirus pandemic - Media

Since the first cases of coronavirus in Brazil, there have been at least 82 attacks against journalists and media workers covering the pandemic in the country. The data, covering a period of five months, comes from permanent monitoring led by ARTICLE 19 Brazil. These attacks not only put journalists’ safety at risk, they negatively affect people’s right to information, which is even more important in the middle of a pandemic. During this time, 100,000 people died of the virus in Brazil. 

Denise Dora, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 Brazil, said:

“In the context of a pandemic where information can literally save lives, it is shocking that the government’s attitude is to attack journalists, reduce transparency and promote disinformation.”

Data shows that in 72% of the cases of attacks and exposure to risks, members of the Federal Government – the President and his allies – were directly responsible. This alarming rate unveils a scenario where facts are discredited and attacks towards journalists are openly encouraged by members of the current mandate. 

For instance, on July 7th, president Jair Bolsonaro gave a press conference to confirm he had tested positive for Covid-19. He was not wearing a mask, exposing journalists to the virus. On May 25th, a number of media outlets, including Globo, Folha and Metropoles, announced they would no longer cover the presidential statements at Palácio do Alvorada (the President’s official residence) as their journalists were constantly attacked by Bolsonaro supporters. Five days later, ARTICLE 19 Brazil and other organisations filed a civil action against Brazil’s federal government over its failure to provide security measures and ensure a safe environment for reporters. In August, the Federal Government stated that it is not the President’s security team’s role to protect journalists in case of conflict.

Almost 10% of the attacks occurred in visits to hospitals or services that remained open despite regional decrees. In these cases, journalists trying to do their job, were interrupted, sometimes after physical and verbal aggressions. 

The data is being released during a pivotal week: on Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaro threatened to punch a journalist, when asked about a corruption investigation that involved the first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro. On Monday 24 August, he called press professionals as a ‘big ass’ and said that journalists have a lower chance of surviving Covid-19.

The information collected over the last five months of permanent monitoring is released today in a public statement by ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America. The document also highlights obstacles to transparency and access to information in the same period. It is also shows that public authorities from the Executive branch have exacerbated disinformation in several public speeches, encouraged the use of medicine with no proven efficacy for Covid-19, and encouraged the population not to comply with orientations such as social isolation and mandatory use of masks. The current government has also implemented different measures that weaken the public organisations responsible for sharing public interest information with the population. 

Notes to Editors

ARTICLE 19 Brazil and South America’s Protection and Safety team monitors violence towards journalists and other media workers in the country. Since Covid-19 hit Brazil, the data referring to the coverage of the pandemic has been disaggregated, which allows analyses focused on the topic. This specific data started being monitored in the first half of March – and the first attack was on March 13th. Data registered until August 12th was included in this article. Monitoring sources are mostly public. Data is collected through active news search on reports of attacks against journalists and media workers, by monitoring relevant actors’ social media channels and by contacting different partners. The monitoring records cases of threats, verbal and physical aggression, interruption of coverage, unreasonable judicial procedures, discredit or disqualification from information work and unnecessary exposure to contamination by the new coronavirus.