Report to the IAPA Midyear Meeting
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
The growth of the aggressiveness in relation to journalistic activity in recent months is a cause for concern. The political turmoil of last year's electoral campaign - amplified by social networks, stimulated intolerance against journalists, and revealed a persistent anti-press-freedom trend.

This is verifiable by monitoring the use that the Brazilian president himself - who assumed in January 2019, makes of Twitter, one of the social networks he uses the most. According to a report by the newspaper O Estado do S. Paulo - published on March 12, in just over two months in office, President Jair Bolsonaro used Twitter to attack the media every three days.

The newspaper explains that "almost half of the criticism and accusations against the press that appear on Bolsonaro's Twitter account is done using retweets from allies and relatives – such as his two sons Carlos and Eduardo, and from comments on websites that usually congregate sympathizers of the head of state.

This is what transpired in the case of the Terça Livre website, which on March 10 published a text falsely attributed to reporter Constança Rezende – with O Estado do S. Paulo, that intended to "ruin Flávio Bolsonaro (Senator and eldest son of the president) and the government" in relation to the journalist's coverage of the suspicious financial activities of Fabrício Quiroz - Flávio's former advisor. The Brazilian president – using this false information, accused journalists on Twitter of trying to "topple the government by means of extortion, disinformation and accusations."

This position of the president has stimulated a growing wave of offenses and defamations against journalists and media on social networks by militants in favor of his government. In the incident related to reporter Constança Rezende, the three most important associations representing the Brazilian media condemned the presidential position of frequently attacking the free exercise of journalism.

The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ), the National Association of Magazine Publishers (ANER) and the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ABERT) jointly warned that the president's attempt to "portray the press as the enemy ignores the role of independent journalism in investigating and overseeing the actions of public authorities."

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), the Brazilian Press Association (ABI) and the Order of Lawyers of Brazil (OAB) also protested against the president's initiative.

This whole scenario of intolerance towards press freedom has worsened the dangers against the physical integrity of journalists. For example, in October 2018 - at the height of the electoral campaign, journalist Patrícia Campos Mello – with Folha de S. Paulo, was the target of hundreds of offensive messages and threats as a result of reports in which she pointed out that businessmen linked to the then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro hired companies to illegally disseminate messages on social networks attacking the rival political campaign. The newspaper had to ask the Federal Police to protect the reporter.

In this widespread climate of threats - veiled or otherwise, against the free exercise of journalism in Brazil, the National Association of Newspapers recorded worrying numbers during this period: nine cases of physical aggression against journalists while practicing their profession, three cases of intimidation, three cases of attacks, two cases of vandalism, and four cases of judicial censorship.