Freedom of expression has continued to experience troubling times during this latest period, especially with regard to killings and assaults.
Four media professionals were killed between September 29, 2015, and March 31, 2016, with strong indications that they were killed for reasons related to their work. The victims were two radio journalists, Israel Gonçalves Silva and João Valdecir Borba (Valdão), and two bloggers from Maranhão, Ítalo Eduardo Diniz Barros and Orislandio Timóteo Araújo (aka Roberto Lano). Brazil has been reporting killings of journalists, radio personalities and other media professionals for the past seven years, and these crimes have largely gone unpunished.
According to the National Newspaper Association (ANJ), 15 media professionals were killed in Brazil in 2015, and five of these killings show clear signs of being related to the victims' work.
In addition to the killings, an alarming number of assaults (56) have also taken place, most of them during the demonstrations for and against the administration of President Dilma Rousseff amid the political crisis triggered by the 2014 presidential elections.
A cause for concern at the institutional level is Law 13188/2015, passed and signed into law on November 11, 2015, which "provides for the right of reply or correction for the aggrieved party of any item disseminated, published or broadcast through a medium of mass communication." The law contains provisions that several of Brazil's leading legal experts deem to be clearly unconstitutional, causing it to be questioned by the National Newspaper Association (ANJ), the Brazilian Press Association (ABI) and the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) of the Federal Supreme Court. No ruling has been handed down as to the substance of these provisions, but an injunction against enforcement of its most flagrantly unconstitutional article is in effect.
Troubling incidents identified by the ANJ
On March 10, 2016, radio personality João Valdecir Borba (Valdão) of Difusora 1490 AM, was killed in the lobby of the radio station where he worked in São Jorge do Oeste (Paraná). According to Eliziane Conter, the coordinator of Difusora AM, the killing occurred at approximately 9:15 p.m., while Borba and an unidentified coworker were hosting a live music program. Witnesses had spotted two men hanging around near the radio station.
While the program was on the air, Borba presumably left to smoke a cigarette and was accosted by two men, one of whom was armed. Borba was killed by a gunshot wound to the stomach. According to the Military Police, Borba's coworker was overpowered and locked in the bathroom after the killing. Borba was taken to the hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries and died. He had specialized in the police beat, but he had asked to be taken off this beat five months earlier. Adriano Zenni, a reporter for the radio station, said that Borba gave no reason for the move. Franciela Alberton Biava, the chief of police in São Jorge do Oeste, said that the motive for the killing was not yet known, and that she would only give a statement once it had been determined.
November 21, 2015: Orislandio Timóteo Araújo (aka Roberto Lano), who maintained a blog by the same name, was killed in Buriticupu (Maranhão). According to the Military Police of Maranhão, Roberto Lano was riding a motorcycle with his wife through downtown Buriticupu when he was intercepted by the suspect, who was also on a motorcycle. The man pulled a gun, shot the victim in the head, and fled. Roberto Lano's final blog post featured an allegation against the mayor of Buriticupu, José Gomes (PMDB). The Military Police says it is pursuing several leads in the investigation to determine the reasons behind the killing of Roberto Lano, and it has not ruled out the possibility that he was killed for reasons related to his work as a blogger.
November 13, 2015: Blogger Ítalo Eduardo Diniz Barros was shot and killed in Governador Nunes Freire (Maranhão). The journalist, who had received threats, was killed outside a shopping center in Governador Nunes. He was shot four times by two people who were on a motorcycle and fled after the killing. According to the Military Police of Maranhão, Ítalo Barros was threatened for postings on his blog, which includes a description of his work as "born of the popular desire for a media outlet that can reclaim the right of the people" and leaves no doubt as to its political motivations. Augusto Barros, chief of the Civil Police of Maranhão, said that there is speculation that Ítalo Barros's writings had displeased politicians and other people in the region, and he was therefore not ruling out the possibility that the killing was related to the blogger's work.
November 10, 2015: Israel Gonçalves Silva, a journalist for Rádio Comunitária Itaenga FM, was shot and killed at a commercial establishment in downtown Lagoa de Itaenga (Pernambuco). According to the newspaper Diário de Pernambuco, Silva was shot by two men on a motorcycle. The passenger got off the motorcycle and shot Silva twice, and then the two men fled. Lt. Col. João Bosco, commander of the 2nd Military Police Brigade, said that Silva was shot with large-caliber bullets, one to the arm and one to the neck. At the time, the Military Police said that the investigation would proceed on the suspicion of an execution. Footage from security cameras at the crime scene was collected by police for the investigation. Two weeks before the killing, Silva had stated on his program on public safety that he had received death threats. This information was confirmed by a cousin of Gonçalves Silva. On December 4, 2015, the Civil Police of Pernambuco reported that Silva had been killed in retaliation for the allegations he had made on his program. According to police chief João Gaspar of the Lagoa do Itaenga district, Henrique Luis da Silva Ferreira and Fábio Ricardo dos Santos Silva were arrested for the killing. Both have criminal records in connection with drug trafficking and homicides, and they confessed that they were annoyed by the journalist's statements about a criminal group in which they were involved. The suspects will be charged with aggravated murder, with the frivolous nature of the motive and the victim's inability to defend himself cited as aggravating factors.
Five journalists were arrested while providing news coverage: photographer Alex de Jesus and reporter Débora Costa of Jornal O Tempo in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais); reporter Chico Filho of the program "Bom dia Meio Norte" of Rede Meio Norte in Teresina (Piauí); and photographer Marco Fávero of Diário Catarinense in Florianópolis (Santa Catarina).
On November 25, 2015, journalists were detained by security guards of the Legislative Police of the Chamber of Deputies and Federal Senate, on the grounds of contempt for police authority. The journalists were detained while covering an action of the Movement of People Affected by Dams, who were protesting the environmental disaster caused by the Samarco mining company in Mariana (Minas Gerais).
Some 56 journalists were assaulted, including the following:
March 6, 2016: The team of reporter Fábio Menegatti of Rede Record was attacked while covering a story about a scam at a luxury automobile dealership.
March 4, 2016: Eleven media professionals who were covering the testimony of former President Lula were assaulted by demonstrators in São Paulo. The assaults occurred outside the Congonhas airport, near the headquarters of the Workers Party, and outside the home of former President Lula in São Bernardo do Campo (São Paulo state).
February 13, 2016: Journalist Marcelo Tabak of the newspaper O Globo was assaulted by members of the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Guard during the Carnival festivities at Mauá Square in Rio de Janeiro. Tabak posted on social media a picture of two bruises caused by the guards.
February 12, 2016: Photographer Clóvis Miranda of the newspaper A Crítica in Manaus (Amazonas) was arrested after recording an action by traffic officers in Amazonas. He was handcuffed and detained for one hour for taking video of officers approaching motorists who had parked illegally during a street festival.
January 29, 2016: Photographer Nando Matheus of the Raw Images agency was attacked by taxi drivers outside a party in the southern part of São Paulo. The taxi drivers had blocked the street to protest the presence of cars bearing the Uber sticker, and they began vandalizing dark sedans indiscriminately.
January 21, 2016: Seven media professionals, including reporters and photographers, were assaulted by the Military Police during an action against demonstrators at República Square in São Paulo. Footage captured by cellphones and television crews showed that the reporters, despite identifying themselves, were beaten with batons, shoved, and targeted with explosive devices, rubber bullets, and pepper spray by police officers.
January 14, 2016: Cinthia Gomes, a reporter for CBN, was struck by a rubber bullet while covering a demonstration of the Free Fare Movement on Paulista Avenue in downtown São Paulo.
January 12, 2016: Nine media professionals were assaulted by Military Police officers during a demonstration organized by the Free Fare Movement against the public transportation fare hikes in São Paulo. Members of the Military Police deployed tear gas and pepper spray in the direction of a group of reporters, photographers and camera operators.
December 15, 2015: Kaique Dalapola, a journalism student and correspondent for Agência Mural, was struck by a Military Police officer's baton while covering a protest by high school students in São Paulo. Dalapola, who also participates in the "University Correspondent" program of the website Comunique-se, needed five stitches in the forehead.
December 10, 2015: Claudemir Brito, editor of the Claudemir Brito news website, was assaulted while covering a city council meeting in Alvorada (Tocantins).
October 21, 2015: Thiago Amaral, a photographer for the website CidadeVerde.com, was assaulted during a demonstration in favor of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff outside the Legislative Assembly of Piauí. The demonstrators, who were part of the "Come to the Street" movement, slapped and kicked Amaral.
October 9, 2015: News photographe
r Taba Benedicto and cameraman Caio Castor of the Viomundo website in São Paulo were assaulted by police officers, and their equipment was damaged, during a protest by students and faculty members against the closure of schools in São Paulo.
Five other attacks occurred as well:
March 27, 2016: Radio journalist Jair Pereira Teixeira (aka Jair Kovalik) was struck by gunfire in Forquilha (Ceará). According to the local Military Police, Teixeira was shot three times, once in each arm and once in the lower back. The Military Police also said that Teixeira was at a bar when a man walked in and shot him. The suspect then fled on motorcycle. Jair was aided and taken to the hospital. Despite his injuries, he is listed in stable condition and is expected to survive.
March 8, 2016: The headquarters of the Jaime Câmara Group—which owns such media outlets as TV Anhaguera, an affiliate of Rede Globo; the newspapers O Popular and Jornal Daqui, and the CBN radio station in Goiânia—were invaded and spray-painted by members of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). According to O Popular, MST members parked three buses outside the building, and some 70 people, most of them with their faces covered, spray-painted the building's walls and chanted, "The people are not stupid; down with Rede Globo."
March 10, 2016: Journalist Kenedy Salomé Lenk, who works for news websites in the state of Espírito Santo, was the victim of an attack in Afonso Cláudio (Espírito Santo). Lenk's car was struck by eight gunshots while parked in the garage of his home. According to witnesses, the shots were fired from a motorcycle carrying two people. Lenk, his wife and his daughter were at home asleep at the time. The Civil Police of Espírito Santo believes that the attack is related to Lenk's work as a journalist.
March 9, 2016: Journalist Patrícia Sonsin and cameraman Davi Ferreira of TV Tarobá, an affiliate of Band in Cascavel (Paraná), were taken hostage by members of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) who had taken over a rural property in Quedas do Iguaçu (Paraná). The TV Tarobá crew was approaching the area and recording footage of the land invasion when they were surrounded by some 50 people armed with shotguns, machetes and rocks.
Six cases involving threats were reported during this period. Threats were made against Alex Bezerra of the website Tribuna de Betim in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais); Sandro Barboza and Josenildo T. Paula of Grupo Bandeirantes de Comunicação in São Paulo; Leandro Machado of Folha de S.Paulo in São Paulo; Ranilson Silva of Rádio Nova Olinda FM in Nova Olinda (Ceará); and Sérgio Vasconcelos of Gazeta de Aracuaí in Aracuaí (Minas Gerais).
Also reported were eight cases involving acts of intimidation or insults directed at the following people: blogger and journalist Juca Kfouri of "Blog do Juca Kfouri" in São Paulo; reporter Renato Rios Neto of Rádio Itatiaia in Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais); journalist Caroline Leal in Brasília; cameraman Jorge Luiz of SporTV in Mogi das Cruzes (São Paulo); a reporting team from the newspaper O Dia in Rio de Janeiro; reporter Alexandre Kapiche and cameraman Diego Gama of TV Vitória in Vitória (Espírito Santo); and journalist Wellington Farias of the radio station 98 FM in João Pessoa (Pernambuco).