Brazil: new report analyses impunity in crimes against communicators

To mark the The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists a new report published today looks in detail at twelve cases involving journalists murdered in Brazil between 2012-2014.

Cycle of Silence – impunity in murders of communicators in Brazil analyses thecontext of impunity in this type of crime in Brazil, and examines the main features of cases involving the murder of broadcasters, photo-journalists, bloggers and journalists.

For Paula Martins, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 South America the lack of resolution in most murders contributes to a hostile environment for freedom of expression and the right to information for Brazilian society. “Impunity is a major reason for the cycle of violations against journalists to continue. In such a scenario, many communicators opt for self-censorship, meaning that information of public interest is not published. This affects the exercise of freedom of expression but also violates the right to information of the whole society.”

All twelve murders analysed in the report occurred as a result of exposure of information about irregularities made by a range of actors. The murders were committed by hit men, and in nine of the crimes, evidence suggests that the masterminds behind the murders were either politicians or policemen.

Impunity becomes obvious when it becomes clear that out of the twelve cases analysed only five cases resulted in the opening of a criminal case, or the indictment of suspects. In the remaining seven cases, the investigations were insufficient or inconclusive, and those responsible for the crimes remained unpunished.

Identification and accountability of the instigators of the crimes against journalists was also rare. In most cases when a criminal conviction was made it only concerned the hit-men who executed the crime.

The report also found that when civil society and media took steps to move a particular case towards a resolution progress on the cases was made. Equally the action of prosecutors and specialist homicide units within the police force was also crucial in making satisfactory progress of police investigations.

For Paula Martins, it is clear that the Brazilian State needs to go through a profound change in order to tackle the problem. “The study demonstrates the dual responsibility of the State in the continued replication of these violations. First, when its agents, as politicians and police, commit crimes; later, when the Justice agencies fail to hold them accountable and give an effective response to the victims’ families and to society.”

Read our report in full.