In 2016 Brazil ranked seventh in the entire world in terms of number of journalists killed, with seven fatalities last year. The good news is that no journalists have been killed thus far in 2017.
This decrease in violent crime might be due to the fact this is not an election year, as it is during municipal elections when spirits are most heated. Credit can also be given to the persistent work of the Brazilian Association of Newspapers, the Radio and Television Association, and the IAPA in monitoring cases and demanding investigations and convictions, thereby striving to eradicate impunity.
This is also a good time for a history lesson and some recognition: The practice of monitoring killings of journalists in Brazil is due to the IAPA's excellent work, which began even before the founding of national associations and has served as an example for what these organizations are now doing on a regular basis.
Violations of press freedom also decreased in 2017, mainly as a result of a decrease in the massive protests of the past several years, which saw countless assaults on journalists by both protesters and police. No journalists were killed.
Nonetheless, intolerance and a lack of understanding and respect for the role of the press in a democratic society has led in recent months to incidents involving physical or verbal attacks, threats, baseless arrests.
The National Newspaper Association (ANJ), working with the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Stations (ABERT), has recorded nine assaults, four threats, five illegal arrests, and two acts of intimidation so far this year.
These threats, assaults, and acts of intimidation against journalists in the course of their work are almost always perpetrated by political activists who are opposed to the freedom to practice journalism. An emblematic case was that of Míriam Leitão, a columnist for O Globo, TV Globo, Globonews, and Rádio CBN. On June 3, for the entire duration of a flight from Brasília to Rio de Janeiro lasting one hour and 40 minutes, Leitão was insulted by members of a politica party who had been attending their party convention in the Brazilian capital. Leitão was forced to listen to insults and threats related to her work as a journalist.
Meanwhile, Brazilian police have continued to exhibit hostility and a lack of training in dealing with journalists. The five arrests of journalists recorded by the ANJ so far in 2017 were baseless, and none resulted in any kind of formal investigation or prosecution. These five reporters, photographers, and filmmakers were investigating newsworthy events when they were detained by police officers upset at the possibility that their rude and violent treatment of citizens might be exposed. Federal and state prosecutors have expressed their deep concern over how poorly trained the police are in dealing with journalists. Public meetings and seminars have been held to debate this issue and put forward solutions, such as training courses for police and the establishment of clear guidelines for police conduct in public protests.
We are pleased to report a significant decrease in cases of judicial censorship. In the first six months of 2017, only one such case was reported. These cases became routine in recent years, even though the Brazilian constitution clearly prohibits any form of prior restraint on the dissemination of news, opinion, or content. It should be noted that cases of judicial censorship in Brazil almost always occur in a trial court and are then overturned by an appeals court. These are unconstitutional acts that violate the right to impart and obtain information, even if they are in effect for only a short time.
The vigilance of organizations representing journalistic and communications companies, as well as those representing journalists, has been essential in heading off initiatives that would undermine the larger principle of press freedom in Brazil. For example, in early October the Brazilian Congress passed an electoral law that would enable candidates to elected office in 2018 to stop the publication of information and opinions regardless of any decision by the courts. The public outcry, led by organizations such as the ANJ, ABERT, and the National Association
of Magazine Publishers (ANER), prompted the Brazilian president to veto the provision that would have allowed this censorship.
Other incidents reported in the past six months:
In May, at least seven journalists were assaulted during the "Occupy Brasília" protest demanding the ouster of President Michel Temer.
On August 29, police in Paraíba arrested five suspects in the killing of radio journalist Ivanildo Ivana on February 27, 2015, in Santa Rita, in the metropolitan area of João Pessoa (Paraíba), including three former military police officers. Neither the motive nor the mastermind behind the killing has been identified.
On September 5, reporter Thais Nunes of the SBT television network was detained by military police for refusing to turn over her cellphone after using it to record a violent police action in a plaza in São Paulo.
On September 7, Roseli Ferreira Pimentel, mayor of Santa Luzia in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area, was arrested for alleged involvement in the killing of journalist Maurício Campos Rosa of the newspaper O Grito on August 17, 2016. On October 5 the court ordered her to remain under house arrest with a monitoring bracelet. The police have not ruled out the possibility that the mayor was being blackmailed by the journalist with the threat of disseminating criticism of her actions during the election campaign.
On September 12, journalist Douglas Freitas and photojournalist Isadora Neumann were assaulted by military police officers while covering a protest over the shutdown of the Queermuseu exhibition at Santander Cultural, a cultural
center in Porto Alegre. Freitas, of the organization Amigos da Terra, was arrested and released the same day. Neumann, of the newspaper Zero Hora, was pepper-sprayed in the face.
On September 29, Fernando Oliveira, host of the program "Mulheres" on the Gazeta television network and "Estação Plural" on TV Brasil, reported that he had received death threats and was the target of homophobia on social media.
On September 28, the nongovernmental organizations Artigo 19, Transparency Brazil, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), and the Public Transparency Program of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation issued an open letter highlighting the progress made in the five years since the Law on Access to Information was passed and calling for improvements, such as standardized enforcement of the law. The letter also suggested that an independent agency be formed to evaluate government transparency throughout Brazil and to ensure that the identity of those requesting information is protected.
In September, the cybercrimes unit of the São Paulo state prosecutor's office announced that it would work to identify and punish those who threaten journalists over the internet. This announcement stems from a complaint to the prosecutor's office about threats and attacks against sports journalist Mauro Cezar Pereira of ESPN.
On October 5, the Brazilian Congress passed an amendment to the electoral law that would require apps and social media platforms to delete material flagged as "hate speech, misinformation, or insults against a party or candidate." This amendment does not mean that a case would be opened in the electoral justice
system or in the prosecutor's office, but rather it would simply entail a complaint on platforms such as Facebook, which could become a vehicle for censorship.