Brazil: Government must protect freedom of expression in its response to coronavirus

Brazil: Government must protect freedom of expression in its response to coronavirus -

President Jair Bolsonaro.Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR

ARTICLE 19 is calling on the Brazilian Government to protect freedom of expression and uphold human rights during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Brazilian people need access to clear information about the coronavirus, including data about the number of cases and deaths caused by the virus, as well as information about how the Government is dealing with the crisis. Not only must the Government share this information, it should promote a healthy media environment where journalists are free to analyse and critique official responses to the pandemic.

The federal government must work in partnership, not opposition, with local governments, journalists, public health agencies and international bodies to ensure consistency, transparency and participation in Brazil’s responses to the coronavirus. This is a time for co-ordinated action not political feuds.

We also urge Brazil’s leaders to follow public health guidelines in their announcements about the pandemic. Last week, Twitter and Facebook removed posts by Bolsonaro, which promoted the anti-malaria prescription drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus and encouraged the end of social distancing. This is an unprecedented step by tech companies, who have previously said they would not remove political content. However, Bolsonaro’s posts fell foul of new commitments by tech companies to remove misinformation about coronavirus.

ARTICLE 19 has joined hundreds of organisations in signing a letter calling on the Brazilian government to protect human rights in its responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The letter has also called for: “public authorities responsible for actions to tackle the COVID19 pandemic in Brazil follow the technical and scientific recommendations of international human rights organizations, particularly from the World Health Organisation”.

Read the full letter here.