Report to the Midyear Meeting
April 4 – 7, 2014
The status of freedom of expression has drastically deteriorated. Of greatest concern is the fact that killings of journalists and other media professionals are going unpunished. Four cases have strong evidence of being the result of the victims' work as journalists, while seven other cases show indications of involving other motives.
Court-imposed censorship is also cause for alarm, with the emergence of two new cases. Particularly noteworthy is the lack of a final ruling on the censorship imposed on the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo since July 31, 2009. On a positive note, rulings in such cases are continuing to be reviewed by higher courts. These reviews, however, do not undo the harm done to the public, which has been denied timely access to news on important matters.
A significant ruling related to press freedom was handed down on February 19 by Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello. The ruling invoked the Declaration of Chapultepec, along with the Brazilian Constitution, in denying the petition by Joaquim Domingos Roriz, former governor of the Federal District, against Veja magazine.
The ruling, in overturning the case on appeal, states that "the Declaration of Chapultepec tells us that there is nothing more harmful, or more dangerous, than a government's attempt to regulate freedom of expression ... ." The ruling goes on to say that "the practical ability of media professionals to exercise freedom of expression, which is based directly on the Brazilian Constitution, assures them the right to express criticism, even if it is unfavorable or forceful in tone, against any person or authority."
A particular concern for the day-to-day ability to practice journalism is the fact that, as a result of the wave of protests that began last year in Brazil, the period covered by this report saw 66 cases of media professionals who were victims of police brutality and assaults by demonstrators.
The violence, which in many cases is clearly directed at media professionals, claimed the life of cameraman Santiago Andrade of TV Bandeirantes and injured others (in some cases severely), as well as causing damage to the offices and vehicles of news companies. It is troubling that many demonstrators combine aggression against journalists with hostility toward corporate media, demanding tighter government regulation of the media and vaguely calling for "popular" forms of communication.
The following killings occurred:
On February 27, 2014, journalist and radio personality Geolino Lopes Xavier (known as Geo Lopes), editor of the website "Portal N3," was shot dead in downtown Teixeira de Freitas (state of Bahia). He was in his vehicle, which was marked with the logo of Portal N3, when the killers opened fire on him from another vehicle and then fled. The police are investigating the crime, and the killers remain at large.
On February 13, 2014, Pedro Palma, owner of the newspaper Jornal Panorama Regional, was killed in Miguel Pereira (state of Rio de Janeiro) when he was shot three times by two people riding on a motorcycle outside his home. Mauro Peixoto, former secretary of the environment in Miguel Pereira and a friend of Palma's, said that the journalist had been receiving threats but did not believe that something like this could actually happen. The suspects remain at large. Palma's wife confirmed that he was receiving anonymous tips on irregularities in the region. On February 24, 2014, Eduardo Paulo Correo, chairman of the Miguel Pereira City Council, said that he had asked the Justice Committee to look into the disappearance of 216,000 Brazilian reals. The funds were provided by a company, called Light, for a local jazz festival, but the event was never held. According to the newspaper Diário do Vale, Pedro Palma was the one who denounced this situation.
On February 6, 2014, cameraman Santiago Andrade of TV Bandeirantes was injured in the head by an explosive device thrown by a protester during a clash between demonstrators and police at a protest against a bus fare hike at the main train station in Rio. Andrade sustained a depression in the skull and lost part of his left ear. A photograph published by O Globo newspaper, taken moments before the explosion, shows a man wearing a gray shirt in the crowd; according to the newspaper's photographer, this was the man who triggered the explosive. On February 12, 2014, the second suspect in the cameraman's killing was arrested. Caio Silva de Souza was found at a hotel in Feira de Santana (state of Bahia).
On October 31, 2013, radio journalist Rômulo Laurentino de Sousa, owner of the website "Aroeiras On-Line," was killed in downtown Aroeiras (Paraíba state) by two gunshot wounds to the head. According to the police, he was walking down the street when he was approached by two men who asked his name and, upon confirming that it was Rômulo Laurentino, opened fire and fled without taking anything, which rules out robbery as a motive. The police are investigating the crime as a contract killing, in light of the fact that Laurentino kept a personal blog in which he criticized local politicians.
The investigations into the following killings have not found any proven connection to the victims' work as journalists: Celso Mazzieri (TV Brasil, killed March 5, 2014), Hélton Souza (public relations officer at Santa Casa de Fernandópolis, São Paulo state, February 27, 2014), Carlos Dias (on-air personality at Rádio Juventude in Messias Targino, Rio Grande do Norte, February 17, 2014), José Lacerda da Silva (cameraman for Grupo TCM de Comunicação in Mossoró, February 16, 2014), Edy Wilson da Silva Dias of Rádio Explosão Jovem FM in Pinheiros, state of São Paulo, February 11, 2014), Osni Mendes (of Click Mineiros magazine, December 21, 2013), and Cláudio Moleiro de Souza (director of Rádio Meridional in Jaru, state of Rondônia, October 12, 2013).
Below are the most important incidents that occurred during this period.
On March 24, the newsroom of the newspaper Polêmica e Debates in Conchal (São Paulo state) was set on fire. The attack occurred at night when no one was in the newsroom. Neighbors managed to contain the blaze and called the police, who found a cloth soaked in flammable liquid. According to journalist Adolfo Pedroso, owner of the newspaper, a staff member saw three men standing outside the building, and later learned of the fire. Pedroso believes that the incident was in retaliation for a police operation.
On March 17, 2014, reporter Marcos Pontes, who was investigating cases of pedophilia and child prostitution, was charged with extortion and defamation by the head of the Anti-Organized Crime Unit, Maria Cristina Portugal. Also charged was Ronaldo Tiradentes, owner of the Rede Tiradentes chain. After the investigation, which began in 2013, Portugal concluded that the two men made a video—including questions and answers—that tried to link members of the Calderaro family (owners of the Rede Calderaro chain and the newspaper A Crítica in Manaus) and local politicians to cases of child prostitution and orgies. Ronaldo Tiradentes was charged with committing extortion against Dissica Tomaz Calderaro, president of the network "A Crítica de Rádio e Televisão." Marcos Pontes was also charged with extortion against Calderaro, as well as defamation against Linda Gláucia Moraes, head of the child protection unit of the police. A wiretap was placed on Pontes's cellphone for four months, and his calls were intercepted as he was performing his work as a journalist. To obtain authorization for the wiretap, Moraes withheld the information that it was to be used on a media professional while he was working. If the two men are prosecuted and convicted, they could face up to 13 years in prison plus fines.
On March 13, 2014, journalist Aníbal Ribas, owner and editor of Jornal Pampeano in Jaguarão (state of Rio Grande do Sul), was threatened by eight police officers who raided the newspaper's offices. Ribas said the police officers placed him under arrest and forced him to sign six citations for defamation-related offenses. The police action was the result of a story published that day in the newspaper, which included the transcription of a conversation recorded by former mayoral candidate Renato Jaguarão with two captains of the Military Police, who confirmed that the current mayor, José Claudio Martins, had refused to take a breathalyzer test at a traffic stop. Up until then the police were denying that this had happened.
On March 7, 2014, Yassine Ahmad Hijazi, a reporter for the news website A Fronteira in the state of Paraná, was threatened by Reni Pereira, mayor of Foz do Iguaçu, during a press conference. The reporter asked the mayor about his low popularity ratings. Impatient, the mayor moved out of the camera's view and, without answering the question, began cursing at the reporter.
On March 4, 2014, cameraman Hilton Costa Brito of TV Atenas, an affiliate of TV Bandeirantes, was shot four times in Pedreiras (Maranhão) outside the television station. While Hilton was waiting to film the Carnival procession when three people drove up in a car, and one of them got out and opened fire on him. Hilton was taken to the hospital, where he underwent two operations. The case is being investigated as a hired hit. No suspects have been arrested.
On February 27, 2014, cameraman Jackson Rodrigues of TV Band Amazonas was detained by military police while filming the scene of a killing in the Cachoeirinha neighborhood of Manaus (Amazonas state). The lieutenant who arrested him claimed that the reporter was not far enough away from the crime scene.
On February 26, 2014, a cameraman for TV Anhanguera who preferred not to be identified was hit while covering protests by the Free Fare Movement in Goiânia. Footage shot by the cameraman shows a group of mask-wearing people gathering tires into a pile and pouring alcohol on them.
On February 25, 2015, three vehicles belonging to two media outlets, two vehicles of the newspaper Notícias do Dia, and one belonging to TVCOM of Grupo RBS were attacked in the neighborhood of Morro do Horácio in Florianópolis (Santa Catarina state). The area is used by television and radio stations and newspapers to gain access to transmission towers atop Morro da Cruz.
On February 22, 2014, during a demonstration against the World Cup in downtown São Paulo, 14 journalists were detained and beaten by the Military Police. Even though they displayed their press credentials, some reporters covering the demonstration were lined up and arrested along with the demonstrators. Sérgio Roxo (O Globo), Reynaldo Turollo (Folha de S. Paulo), Paulo Toledo Piza (G1), Bárbara Ferreira Santos (Estadão), Fábio Leite (Estadão), Victor Moriyama (freelancer), and Felipe Larozza (Vice) were temporarily detained for anywhere from several minutes to about three hours. Roxo, Bárbara, and Moriyama were also beaten. Bruno Santos (Terra) suffered a sprained ankle and was struck with a police baton while trying to escape from the tumult amid the protest. Evelson de Freitas (Estadão), Amanda Previdelli (Brasil Post), Mauro Donato (Diário do Centro do Mundo), Tarek Mahammed (Rede de Fotógrafos Ativistas), Alexandre Capozzoli (Grupo de Apoio Popular), and Alice Martins (Vice) were struck with police batons or shields and were kicked. The first journalists were released at night. Celso Luiz Pinheiro, a colonel with the Military Police, lamented the assaults on the journalists and apologized for any excessive action by the Military Police officers.
On February 18, 2014, journalist Francisco das Chagas de Souza, administrator of the Facebook pages "A Crítica de Humaitá" and "Chaguinha de Humaitá," was forced to remove comments and stories created by users in 2013, and was ordered to pay a fine of 800 Brazilian reals per day if any item was not removed from the Internet. The stories and comments came about amid tensions in southern Amazonas state after three people disappeared from the Tenharim indigenous lands. According to the complaint, the comments and stories contained insults, incitement to hatred, abusive comments, and discriminatory content against the Tenharim people. The federal court in the state approved the petition for injunction brought by federal prosecutors in Amazonas through a civil action.
On February 6, 2014, German reporter Phillip Barth, a correspondent for Deutsche Welle, was beaten by Military Police officers while covering a protest against the bus fare hike in Rio de Janeiro.
On February 6, 2014, journalist and university professor Cilene Victor da Silva received an anonymous death threat by phone. The threat was in response to criticism she had posted on Facebook of a comment by Rachel Sheherazade, a news anchor for SBT, about the torture of a young man by vigilantes in Rio de Janeiro.
On February 4, 2004, journalist Paulo Franco was assaulted and threatened by Adriano Delfino da Silva, aka "Drikão," city councilman in Agudos (São Paulo state). The incident occurred outside city hall during a protest by residents occupying homes in Parque Santa Cândida, and was apparently in response to a post by the journalist on her personal Facebook page on Monday, in which she criticized Drikão's stance against the renewal of the city government's contract with the Agudos hospital for emergency services.
On February 2, 2014, the home of Ribeiro Sousa, a radio journalist at Paiaiá FM and director of the website RF Notícias, in the municipality of Saúde (Bahia state), was invaded by attorney Joel Caetano da Silva Neto and two other men. Ribeiro was assaulted and threatened, and his 15-year-old son was pushed by the assailants. The incident was in response to the journalist's reporting that the attorney would charge 3,500 Brazilian reals for seniors seeking to begin receiving their pensions.
On January 25, 2014, news photographer Sebastião Moreira of EFE news agency was beaten by a Military Police officer while covering protests against the World Cup outside the Linson Hotel in downtown São Paulo. The beating was recorded on video by photographer Mauro Donato and disseminated on January 27, 2014, with footage of the SWAT squad's storming of the hotel. The photographer was beaten despite surrendering and showing his press credentials to the Military Police.
On January 17, 2014, Juarez Matias, a photographer for the website Bocão News, was assaulted by a bodyguard of the mayor of Salvador (Bahia state), ACM Neto. The photographer was covering the annual celebration known as "Feast of Bonfim," where he was walking alongside the mayor's group in the procession. Bocão News and the newspaper Tribuna da Bahia reported that as the procession approached Colina Sagrada, a man tried to get past the mayor's security ring but was stopped and pinned down by one of the bodyguards.
On January 17, 2014, a reporting team for the program "Balanço Geral" on TV Nativa, an affiliate of Rede Record in Mato Grosso, was threatened by the owner of a gold mine in Paranalta, identified as Jeferson Reinaldo de Paula. The team was looking into reports of a robbery at a lottery post on December 31, 2013. According to reports by the regular and military police, the suspects were hiding in the area of the gold mine with weapons, munitions, chainsaws, and dynamite.
On November 19, 2013, journalists Rubens Salomão of Rádio 730 and Rosana Melo of the newspaper O Popular were beaten by police officers out on strike. The incident occurred on the floor of the Goiás Legislative Assembly, in the city of Goiânia. Salomão said he went there to speak with legislators about the takeover of the assembly floor, and when he didn't find any legislators, he began photographing the demonstrators. He said that when he identified himself as a reporter, at least two police officers began attacking him verbally and telling him that he was interfering with their demonstration.
On October 21, 2013, four media professionals were assaulted by police officers and demonstrators while covering a protest in Rio de Janeiro against the sale of the Libra oilfield. Media equipment and the personal backpacks of the reporting team were burned. Aline Pacheco, a reporter for TV Record, was assaulted by demonstrators who struck her in the back. Gustavo Oliveira, a photographer for the British news agency Demotix, was struck in the arm by a rock thrown by protesters. Photographer Pablo Jacob of O Globo newspaper and cameraman Marco Mota of TV Brasil were shot with rubber bullets by agents of the National Public Security Force.
On October 19, 2013, reporter Tatiana Farah of O Globo newspaper was shot with a rubber bullet and struck with a baton by a Military Police officer during a demonstration against the use of animals in scientific research at the Royal Institute in São Roque (state of São Paulo). The reporter said she and a photographer, whom she did not know, were near the sweep operation when they were assaulted. Both of them shouted that they were members of the press, but this did not deter the police officers.
On October 14, 2013, journalist Ieldyson Vasconcelos, who hosts the program "Bom Dia Meio Norte" on TV Meio Norte en Piauí, said on the news broadcast that his name was on a list of people to be killed. The list, allegedly drawn up by traffickers and seized by the police, is said to include the names of two other journalists and four Military Police officers, in addition to that of Vasconcelos.
On October 7, 2013, journalist Roberta Kremer of the newspaper Notícias do Dia was threatened by Florianópolis city councilman Deglaber Goulart (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) during a session of city council. The incident was in response to a story in which the journalist criticized Goulart's plans regarding psychological counseling for homosexuals and family members. Kremer said that these plans would divert attention from one of the most controversial issues in the city, the investigation involving local taxi cabs.