Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida


In the last six months the situation of press freedom has worsened - especially President Jair Bolsonaro's aggressive stance towards the press, journalism professionals and media companies. The wave of intolerance against the free exercise of journalism - which began in last year's presidential elections and has taken hold since the new government took office - has grown in social networks. President Bolsonaro has made clear his willingness to weaken newspapers financially by repealing legislation requiring the publication of company balance sheets and government bidding documents.

Although in April, the president signed a law of Congress that promoted a transition in the obligation to publish company balance sheets from printed newspapers to newspaper websites, that law was repealed in early August. President Bolsonaro ironically explained that he was "rewarding" newspapers for the unfair treatment he and his government received. He explained that the decision will hurt newspapers financially, citing Valor Econômico - a newspaper of the Globo Group that specializes in economics and finance.

A month later, at the beginning of September – following the strategy of weakening newspapers financially - the President issued another regulation. He decided that government bidding documents no longer need to be published in print newspapers, ignoring the debate on the subject taking place in Congress - where the transition from the current print model to the digital model is also being addressed. In both initiatives, the president used the resource of the Provisional Measure, a sort of executive order that becomes effective immediately, although it can then be modified or repealed by Congress. Revenue from the publication of government bidding documents is important, especially for small and medium-sized newspapers.

The political party Rede Sustentabilidade filed lawsuits for unconstitutionality with the Federal Supreme Court (STF) against the provisional measures that eliminate the publication of balance sheets and bidding documents. The National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) participates in these actions, as amicus curiae.

Basically, both lawsuits state the following: the urgency of the provisional measures is not justified; considering that the president's real intention - made publicly - is to harm the press; considering that Congress recently approved a transition from print to digital publication of balance sheets - sanctioned by the president; considering that Congress is also debating a transition to the publication of bidding documents; and finally that both measures undermine the transparency of information of public interest. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue.

The president and his three sons, members of Parliament: a senator, a federal deputy and a councilman for the city of Rio de Janeiro, have often used social networks to attack the press, journalists and media companies. Parliamentarians allied with the President - and even ministers of state - follow along the same line.

Violence against journalists persists. From March to September there were two murders.

On 25 May, journalist Robson Giorno - of the printed newspaper and online portal "O Maricá," was murdered in the city of Maricá, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Both media are known for their denunciations of politicians from different groups and parties in the region. Robson was shot dead on his way home.

In the same city, on June 18, journalist Romário Barros - of the website "Lei Seca Maricá," was assassinated. Like Robson, he was known for covering corruption and irregularities committed by local authorities. Romario was in his car when he was shot.

There is also a case of press censorship - although the Constitution excludes any type of censorship. By decision of Minister Alexandre de Moraes of the Federal Supreme Court (CSF) - which precisely has the responsibility to ensure compliance with the Constitution - the electronic magazine "Crusoe" stopped publishing for four days a story about Minister Dias Toffoli - president of the court. The censorship was enforced on April 15 and, after much criticism - including by other CSF ministers - was repealed on April 19 by Alexandre de Moraes himself.