IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
March 31 - April 3

The period covered by this report (October 4, 2016 to February 22, 2017) saw a persisting scenario of violence against journalists and court rulings adverse to press freedom.

Incidents of violence against journalists are routine in Brazil. This violence plays out in various ways and comes from various sources. It consists of physical assaults, threats, insults, acts of intimidation, and vandalism. Much of the violence against journalists is carried out by police officers who overstep their authority and appear utterly unprepared to perform their duties at events covered by journalists.

A survey by the National Newspapers Association found 14 cases of physical assault, four of threats, two of intimidation, three of vandalism, and four involving insults during the period covered by this report.

At a time like this, with the country experiencing great political turmoil, media coverage of mass demonstrations often leads to some form of police violence against journalists. Moreover, protesters who disagree with the editorial line of media outlets, or with how these outlets are covering the news, will assault journalists or attack the offices of news organizations. There have also been incidents of violence against journalists by militia members and drug traffickers.

One example of intolerance toward press freedom was the attack on the offices of Rede Gazeta in Vitória, state of Espírito Santo, in the early morning hours of February 9. The building was struck by four gunshots; luckily, no one was injured. During this period, Rede Gazeta and its employees had been receiving threats while covering a strike by military police officers that had paralyzed the state.

Even aside from the political polarization and mass demonstrations, violence perpetrated by police officers, militia members and drug traffickers against journalists is a recurring phenomenon in smaller cities and in the outskirts of large cities. This sad state of affairs is made possible by the persistent impunity enjoyed by criminals who target journalists. The police are ineffective in investigating these crimes and reporting them to the justice system, which in turn is slow and ineffective as well.

The courts continue to hand down rulings that constitute censorship of the press or violations of the constitutional right to practice journalism. In an emblematic case along these lines, in February 2017 a Federal District judge barred the newspapers Folha de S. Paulo and O Globo from reporting the content of messages sent in an extortion attempt by a hacker to Marcela Temer, the wife of President Michel Temer. Although the content of these messages is part of a police investigation, the judge ruled that such reporting would constitute an invasion of privacy. The judge's ruling was overturned days later by a higher court, but the case nonetheless represented a clear violation of the constitutional ban on prior restraint.

The period covered by this report also saw other unconstitutional court rulings against press freedom, involving not only prior restraint but also violations of journalists' right to keep their sources confidential.