ARTICLE 19 today launches the fifth edition of its annual report on violations of freedom of expression in Brazil, which highlights serious violations against communicators (journalists, bloggers, radio broadcasters and media outlet owners) in 2016.
ARTICLE 19 recorded 31 serious violations against communicators across the country in 2016, including four murders, five murder attempts and 22 death threats.
The victims were 11 journalists or reporters, 11 bloggers, six radio broadcasters and three media outlet owners. Notably, 84% of these communicators had already been subjected to violations in previous years, which demonstrates the inability of the Brazilian State to guarantee their protection.
The report also reveals that in more than half of the cases (52%), the communicator was linked to alternative media outlets – such as blogs and small printed newspapers – while the number of serious violations in commercial media outlets was 42%.
The majority of violations were recorded in the Northeast region (45%), followed by the Southeast (22%), North (16%), South (10%) and Central West (7%). However, the State in which ARTICLE 19 recorded the greatest number of serious violations was São Paulo (in the Southeast), which alone accounted for 16% of the cases, followed by Ceará and Maranhão (13% each) and Bahia (10%).
State agents remain top suspects
The trend of previous years’ reports also remained in that the vast majority (77%) of those suspected of perpetrating violations were State agents, such as politicians and police officers.
The analysis also shows that in 65% of cases, reporting irregularities committed by public authorities was identified as the trigger for the violation.
Violations continue while state does nothing
In 39% of the cases of serious violations against communicators, there was no investigation opened by the police. Impunity therefore continues to be a problem.
Júlia Lima, Protection and Security Programme Officer for ARTICLE 19 Brazil, points out that the situation of violations of freedom of expression of communicators remains essentially the same as it was five years ago and that the Brazilian State has done practically nothing to address it.
“It is evident that violations of freedom of expression against communicators in Brazil are systematic and widespread, and require strong and coordinated action by the Brazilian State. However, during the five years we have been reporting, the issue was practically ignored by the Brazilian authorities, especially the Federal Executive, which is best placed to formulate policies and act in this field. As a result, we have a scenario of violence that has intensified more and more”, she said.
She also stresses the importance of the Brazilian government developing immediate protection measures for communicators.
“Although it was intended for human rights advocates, the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (PPHRD), established in 2005, could also include communicators, with appropriate adaptations. However, the program never received the resources it deserved, nor was it treated with the priority needed by the Federal Executive, and more recently, it has faced a structural crisis that has weakened it a lot”, she said.
“At a time when civil society has been struggling for the continuity and improvement of PPHRD, it is important to deepen the discussion on how to extend this mechanism in order to provide effective protection to communicators”, she concluded.