Report to the IAPA
March 28, 2020


The last six months have been marked by a growing increase in virtual attacks on journalists and news companies on social media. It is a situation that regrettably has been consolidated during recent years and which is contrary to press freedom. A survey carried out by the Bites company, which monitors digital data, shows that in 2019 professional media suffered almost 11,000 daily attacks through social media, which represents seven attacks a minute.

They are publications with obscene words or expressions that seek to discredit the work of the press, produced by profiles and Web sites with a certain ideological slant. Throughout 2019 the number of attacks amounted to approximately 4 million of anti-press negative publications, which is equivalent to 10 per cent of all the production in the area of professional communication.

Although the virtual attacks on professional journalism all originate in the political spectrum of the country it is evidenced that most of them are had by right-wing publications. In this offensive there stand out the actions of President Jair Bolsonaro and his followers. In addition to the social media the president often uses discourses and interviews to disqualify journalists and news companies.

The president adopted the habit of abandoning the official residence of the Alvorada Palace while he accuses and provokes journalists. On these occasions the behavior of the president alerts his followers, who daily demonstrate in that place and also verbally attack journalists.

The head of government treats as enemies the communication vehicles that publish negative reports on or analysis of his government. On several occasions President Bolsonaro has recommended to the business sectors not to make advertising investments in these news media, and has suggested to the citizens not to subscribe to the publications that he regards as enemies.

Other relevant events:

On November 21 militants and sympathizers of President Bolsonaro harassed journalists at the first event of the Alianza por Brasil party in Brasilia, and shouted such insults as "rubbish," "leftists" and "impure race."

Parallel to this official offensive against the press there continue the cases of physical violence against journalists, stimulated by the lack of effectiveness of the police authorities and the judicial branch to identify and punish the guilty.

On January 9 the São Paulo Military Police obstructed the work of reporter Arthur Stabile, of the Ponte Jornalismo Web site, and news photographer Lucas Martins, of the Jornalistas Livre Web site, as they were recording attacks on demonstrators of the Movimento Passe-Livre (MPL) in central São Paulo, on which occasion news photographer Daniel Teixeira of the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo was punched on the ribs.

On January 21 the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office presented a complaint against journalist Glenn Greenwald for criminal association for removal of communication equipment and unlawful interception of communications. In response on January 24 national and international bodies sent an open letter to the Brazilian authorities calling the denunciation an "abuse of power."

On February 18 President Bolsonaro voiced insults of a sexual nature against Folha de S. Paulo female reporter Patricia Campos Mello, on reproducing information about a testimony in the IPC concerning the issue of fake news.

Journalist Vera Magalhães of TV Cultura and O Estado de S. Paulo was the victim of doxxing (exposure of personal details) and the creation of a false profile on a social media network, after it having been revealed on February 25 on the BR Político Web site that President Bolsonaro had sent messages of support of an action against the National Congress through the WhatsApp private app.

On March 6 17 bodies of the Brazilian civil society denounced the Bolsonaro government in the 175th meeting of the Inter-American Council on Human Rights (IACHR), held in Haiti, of making systematic violations of freedom of expression in the country, attacks on the press, censorship of artistic and cultural freedoms, stifling of spaces for social participation and access to public information.

On March 16 the Federal Attorney General's Office accused six persons of the murder of journalist Vladimir Herzog committed 45 years ago. Herzog, news editor of TV Cultura and head of the television news program "Hora de Noticias," was arrested, interrogated, tortured and murdered by agents of the military dictatorship on October 25, 1975.

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights condemned Brazil for negligence in the investigation and the handling of the case in March 2018.

The report on violence against women journalists in Brazil, made by ABRAJI, identified 20 attacks on members of the press between January 2019 and February 2020, including misogamy and sexist offenses, discredit of work and disclosure of personal information; of the 17 recorded cases in 2019 13 were carried out by federal and state congress members, ministers and President Bolsonaro himself, and up to February 2020 there were three attacks carried out by politicians.