Report to the Midyear Meeting
April 20-23, 2021

The intolerance and authoritarianism that characterize the government of Jair Bolsonaro continue as fundamental reasons for a very negative picture of press freedom. The president persists in attacks on journalism, always seeking to disqualify professionals and companies in the sector and promoting permanent aggressiveness by sectors of society against journalistic activity.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which in Brazil reached record levels, has naturally been the focus of intense journalistic coverage, which causes sectors that are not satisfied with the free exercise of journalism to increase the level of attacks on the activity.

The initiatives of the federal government to make it difficult for the press to access information related to the pandemic in the country and also to manipulate this information led a group of newspaper companies to create a consortium with the aim of investigating the data directly in the municipalities and states. This journalistic effort is a good measure of the tension created by the authorities against the right of citizens to have access to information of interest to them.

An example of the aggressive climate of authoritarian sectors against press freedom was the attack suffered on March 17, 2021 by the newspaper Folha da Região, in the city of Olímpia, in São Paulo. In the early hours of that day, an arson fire destroyed part of the newspaper's headquarters. Later, the Police identified the perpetrator of the attack, who on social networks showed his dissatisfaction with the editorial line of the newspaper in defense of the social isolation measures necessary to face the pandemic.

Social networks have been the most used channel to carry out attacks on press freedom. A survey carried out by the data analysis company Bites, at the request of the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Stations (ABERT), shows that virtual attacks on press freedom in recent months have reached an average of six per minute .

Although decisions continue at the lower levels of the Brazilian Judicial Power, contrary to the free exercise of journalism, in contradiction with what the Constitution of the country determines, it is necessary to record a historical deliberation of the Federal Supreme Court, which, in February 2021, closed a lawsuit for attempted violation of the Confidentiality Law of the source of journalist Allan de Abreu, from Diário da Região, from São José do Rio Preto, in São Paulo.

The Public Ministry demanded that the journalist and the newspaper identify the informant who reports on corruption in the city. However, based on a lawsuit filed in court by the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ), the country's highest court ended the process, establishing the constitutional principle of the right to confidentiality of the journalistic source. An auspicious event in a scenario of so many setbacks for press freedom.

Other cases registered in this period:

On March 31, the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) issued a note condemning attacks on freedom of expression due to the misuse of the National Security Law (LSN). According to the CNDH, this law violates the 1988 Constitution and the democratic rule of law that it establishes, which is why the CNDH requests the suspension of current penalties through LSN so that freedom of expression and political demonstrations are not criminalized.

On March 26, Portal Catarinas suffered a series of massive attacks on its home page, causing the site to go down. The portal was created in 2016 to address gender, feminism and human rights issues. Other independent sites, such as Repórter Brasil and Ponte Jornalismo, had already suffered attacks of the same type.

On March 15, the reporter Maycon Leão and a team from TV Serra Dourada, an affiliate of SBT in Goiás, were attacked by a man during the live broadcast of a demonstration in Rodovia BR 153 in which businessmen were protesting against the closure of businesses. by the Goiás government to combat the worsening of Covid-19. The man tried to take his cell phone and the cameraman from the cameraman.

On March 14, photojournalist Paula Fróes, of the Bahia daily Correio, was the target of crimes during a protest by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro in front of a barracks in Salvador, when she was photographing the end of the mobilization "Passeata pela Liberdade, com Deus and for the family "which included a group of people calling for a military intervention in Brazil.

The dossier "Journalists victimized by Covid-19", prepared by the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), pointed out that Brazil is the country with the highest number of journalists killed by Covid-19 in the world, having registered 169 deaths in April. 2020 to March 2021. With 19 deaths registered in each of the three states, São Paulo, Pará and Amazonas lead in absolute numbers the survey of Covid-19 victims among journalists. FENAJ warns that the data may be underreported and that the file has received constant updates.