The #ShareInformation #ShareDemocracy campaign, launched by ARTIGO 19, ARTICLE 19’s Brazil and South America office, champions freedom of expression, information, and association in the run up to Brazil’s 2022 general elections. The first round of voting begins on 2 October, with a second round, if necessary, taking place on 30 October.
#ShareInformation #ShareDemocracy – #CompartilheInformacao #CompartilheDemocracia in Portuguese – promotes free and fair elections and encourages people to exercise their democratic right to vote. Responding to the rise of authoritarianism in Brazil, it seeks to prevent democratic rupture in the run up to, during and after the elections — not least because President Bolsonaro has repeatedly challenged the credibility of Brazil’s electoral system. Data from ARTICLE 19’s Global Expression Report revealed that Bolsonaro made 1,682 false or misleading statements in 2020 alone, the equivalent of four per day.
The campaign is about educating and informing the voting public, outlining how tech can be used to ensure transparency and verify results – as well as highlighting its role in driving disinformation (including that spread by Bolsonaro and his supporters), its vulnerability to hackers, and the rising production of surveillance tools.
‘Disinformation has been used as a weapon to destroy democracy and corrode public spaces,’ says Denise Dora, executive director of ARTIGO 19. ‘Through our campaigns and media engagement, we are tackling these growing problems. We are also defining what is and what is not freedom of expression. For that, we bring data, concrete information and testimonials of public people from across our country. We emphasise the value of investing in rigorous journalism, and the importance of strengthening Brazil’s state democratic institutions. And we work to dismantle the discrimination embedded in Brazilian society, and to reinforce people’s freedoms to speak openly and to protest safely, and to strengthen Brazil’s democracy through diversity.’
The campaign brings together 20 organisations and groups and at least 300 people from diverse backgrounds and cultures working on a huge range of issues affecting young people, black women, women with disabilities, indigenous people, communicators, and people from both rural and urban areas across Brazil.
The aims of the campaign are:
- To inform the population and key actors on how they can participate in elections and the importance of exercising their democratic rights at the ballot box;
- To promote a broad public debate about fundamental freedoms and rights in Brazil, particularly freedom of expression, the right to protest, and the right to access information;
- To inform the population and key actors about the use of digital technologies to enhance electoral processes, reducing the risks of election manipulation, especially through the strategy of disinformation and the delegitimisation of the process;
- To foster and strengthen already existing popular communication initiatives to share information and debates about political and social issues in the context of the election, and to encourage action and engagement by using these tools;
- To promote access to quality information for all.
The project is providing financial and strategic support to 20 popular organisations and groups working to protect the right to freedom of expression and to support the democratic process and rights across Brazil, engaging with a majority of the country’s territories. Through it, ARTIGO 19 has led workshops and training on producing content and helped partner organisations present and document the work they do, and helped disseminate that information and key messages around the elections, online and in print.
One example of the organisations ARTIGO 19 is working with is Nos Mulheres da Periferia [Women in the Periphery], a group that highlights the absence of marginalised people from elections and specifically advertising and outreach. ‘How many women with disabilities in political office do you know?’, the organisation asks on the election section of its website.
The campaign, launched in July, correct specifically aims to engage with young people and people with disabilities. In addition to its work to inform, educate, and share information ahead of the election, #ShareInformation #ShareDemocracy will provide coverage of the election throughout the period.
#ShareInformation #ShareDemocracy was inspired by the #ShareInformation #ShareHealth initiative, a response to the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil.
The challenges ahead
‘The 2018 presidential election marked the peak of fake news campaigns orchestrated by organised groups with specific political and economic interests,’ says Paulo Jose Lara, coordinator of Digital Rights at A19 Brazil and South America. ‘Four years later, society is savvier about the attempts to influence voters through deceitful news.’
As ARTIGO 19’s Paulo Jose Lara points out, there are key areas that require prioritised action:
– Disinformation. Among those disseminating disinformation are elected politicians, some of whom target the electoral process and share false information about ballots and electronic voting machines. They do this on Facebook and other social media platforms, but also through government agencies.
– The right to information has also come under threat, and many requests for information have been blocked – a blatant abuse of existing protocols.
– The growing censorship of artistic freedom, especially in light of changes made to the Cultural Incentive Law, which specifically targets LGBTQI+ communities.
– The use of Anti-Terrorism Law to intimidate people, and new laws authorised the establishment of a secret, shadow police force that can be used to persecute dissent without transparency.
– Suppression of protest. Government attempts to pass restrictive laws, court orders prohibiting demonstrations, police repression, authorities making anti-protest statements [check: direct threats to protesters], and some parts of the media stigmatisation of protesters – labelling them as criminals – have all contributed to an environment of fear.
– Attacks and threats against black women politicians are on the rise
– Violence against journalists and communicators continues, and there are fears that this will only escalate as the elections near. There are bloggers, radio broadcasters and other community-focused local media in approximately two-thirds of all Brazilian cities. Because of their independent nature, and because they are located in territories with land disputes, or commanded by militias, they are much more vulnerable and exposed to violence.
Brazil is ranked 89 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual review of the state of freedom of expression and the right to information around the world.