On 3 September 2018 Brazil’s Ministry of Human Rights published a decree to include social communicators within the government’s Human Rights Defenders Protection Program (PPDDH). The Program has expanded its mandate to protect all individuals working as communicators in Brazil including journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, and mediaworkers who encounter threats or violence in the course of their work. ARTICLE 19 welcomes this as a positive step towards stronger state protections against violations to communicators in Brazil, which between 2012 and 2017 totaled 117. But much more work is required to improve the effectiveness of the protection mechanism to protect the lives of Brazil’s communicators.
The PPDDH was established in 2004 as the official Brazilian guidelines for protection in cases of threat and risk of life involving individuals, groups or social organizations that act in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Program’s recent move to include protection of communicators represents an important achievement of civil society, which for years has been denouncing systematic violations against communicators in Brazil and calling for stronger state protections against human rights violations.
ARTICLE 19’s recent report on violations of freedom of expression in Brazil, which highlights severe violations against journalists, bloggers, radio broadcasters and media outlet owners, reports a 27 violations in 2017, including 21 death threats, four attempted murders and two murders. The report also highlights that public and political officials are suspected of having acted as perpetrators of the violations in 70% of cases.
In addition to monitoring cases of serious violations ARTICLE 19, is one of the members of the Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders (CBDDH), a network of civil society organizations that has been following the PPDDH since its inception.
Programme’s implementation remain a challenge
While the inclusion of communicators in the mechanism is important, more work is needed to improve the state’s effectiveness and capacity to respond to violations against communicators in Brazil. Measures to ensure that methodologies and service protocols are appropriate to communicators at risk is imperative. The Programme must also urge authorities, police and the judiciary to pursue investigations of violations and bring justice. The Programme also needs to work with civil society to disseminate information about its mandate and activities among communicators to raise awareness.
“The expansion of the sectors involved in the Deliberative Council, the highest level of deliberation of the PPDDH is an important issue and a point that has not yet been contemplated by the regulations published on Tuesday”, added coordinator of ARTICLE 19 Brazil’s protection program Julia Lima. The decree maintained the current composition of the Council, which since 2015 excludes civil society participation, being limited to two representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights and one representative of the Ministry of Public Security.
Therefore, it is important to monitor the program’s implementation and remain in dialogue with the State, demanding actions to protect the communicators life and professional practice. This is central to also protecting the fundamental role they play in the search and dissemination of information for the formation of the debate public and the exercise of democracy.