Report to the 72nd General Assembly

Mexico City, Mexico

October 13 – 17, 2016


The period corresponding to this report (April 1 to October 3, 2016) saw a decrease in the most egregious acts of violence involving attacks on freedom of expression, which is the most significant development after several years of increasing violence. The number of slain journalists fell from seven in 2015 to one confirmed case (that of journalist João Miranda do Carmo, owner of the news website "Sad sem Censura" in Santo Antônio do Descoberto (Goiás), killed on July 24, 2016). There are also two cases for which the investigations are inconclusive (those of blogger Manoel Messias Pereira, shot and killed in Grajaú, Maranhão, on April 9; and Maurício Campos Rosa, owner of the newspaper O Grito, on August 17). This development, however, should be taken with a grain of salt because other types of attacks on journalists have increased.

In terms of attacks in the context of public protests, incidents of assault and hostility toward journalists by police officers, demonstrators, and political figures grew worse in this period. According to the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), 40 incidents of assault and hostility toward journalists by police officers, demonstrators, and political figures have occurred in the past six months (and more than 300 since the outbreak of protests in 2013).

As is predictable during an election season, and especially amid the highly tense political situation this year, there has been an increase in the number of cases involving judicial censorship and the use of the courts to request removal of journalistic content from the Internet. According to ABRAJI, political figures, parties, and the public prosecutor's office pursued at least 105 actions against 99 media outlets seeking to have information deemed harmful to their electoral aspirations removed from the Internet, or seeking to block the dissemination of such information. These numbers are higher than in all previous elections.

Also in the judicial arena, it is alarming that members of the judiciary, unhappy with the tone of certain news stories, have used special courts (originally created to handle small cases and therefore held in the plaintiff's jurisdiction) in an evident attempt to punish and intimidate those seeking to do quality journalism. Such was the case in the first half of 2016 with the newspaper Gazeta do Povo (in Curitiba, Paraná) and a team of five journalists reporting on the compensation of judges and members of the public prosecutor's office of the state of Paraná who, through the exploitation of legal loopholes, ended up receiving exorbitant salaries, on average higher than the maximum allowed by the Constitution.

It should be noted that this matter was handled in a rigorous, objective and cool-headed manner, as evidenced by the fact that no one filed an action to exercise his or her right of reply regarding the factual content of the reporting. By taking the right of every individual to resort to special courts and turning this right into a tactic for punishing and intimidating newspapers and journalists, those pursuing these actions have forced the journalists and legal representatives of Gazeta do Povo to travel a total 9,046 kilometers to appear at 25 hearings, involving 18 full days and 9 partial days away from their regular work. The absurdity of this case has led multiple organizations, including the IAPA, to protest. Brazil's National Newspaper Association (ANJ) has requested permission to join the case with amicus curiae status before the Federal Supreme Court, and the ANJ has named the newspaper and the journalists involved in the case as recipients of its Press Freedom Award for 2016. The case has yet to be judged on its merits, but an injunction has been granted by Justice Rosa Weber to suspend the rulings by the Paraná state judiciary.

Lastly, it should be noted that the Brazilian government has been going through a highly turbulent period, culminating in the impeachment of the president, the ousting of the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, and the arrest of members of Parliament, former ministers and business executives involved in public works contracts.

The proceedings are ongoing. The agencies handling these matters come forward each week with new charges and investigations, resulting in further convictions in the courts.

Amid these tense and complex circumstances, the executive, legislative and judicial branches are operating independently, the people continue to vote in accordance with the electoral calendar (elections were held this month in 5,500 cities), and the press is working freely, publishing whatever it deems important to reveal to the public.


On August 17, journalist Maurício Campos Rosa, owner of O Grito newspaper, was killed in Santa Luzia, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais.

On July 24, journalist João Miranda do Carmo, 43, owner of the news website "Sad sem Censura," was killed in Santo Antônio do Descoberto (Goiás). The journalist was home when four men rang at his front gate. When he went to greet them, two of the men fired a total of 22 shots, and Miranda was struck at least 7 times. Miranda's friends say he had received death threats supposedly in response to material posted on his website. Miranda was fearful after posting stories on drug trafficking and allegations against Mayor Itamar Lemes Prado (PDT).

On July 27, 2016, the Civil Police of Goiás arrested government employee Douglas Ferreira de Morais on suspicion of involvement in Miranda's killing. Ferreira, who worked for the mayor's office in Santo Antônio do Descoberto, denied any involvement in the crime. Regional police chief Fernando Augusto Luiz da Gama, from Águas Lindas de Goiás, said he was exploring the possibility that Miranda's work as a journalist was the motive behind the killing.

On April 9, Manoel Messias Pereira, owner of the news website, was killed in Grajaú, Maranhão.