Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 19-21 2022

The press freedom situation remains worrisome due to the anti-journalistic stance of Jair Bolsonaro's government. The president, his political allies and supporters continue to constantly obstruct the free exercise of journalistic activity, with the prospect of a considerable increase in the level of aggressiveness in the coming months - in the run-up to the general elections to be held in October of this year.

Two recent examples illustrate the anti-press stance - one of the hallmarks of Bolsonarism: in a speech to a group of Brazilian businessmen, the president asked them not to invest in newspaper advertising; and Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president's son, made ironic remarks on social networks about the fact that Míriam Leitão - a well-known Brazilian journalist - was tortured during the military dictatorship.

These kinds of initiatives are encouraging violence against journalists and the press on social networks, as shown by a poll conducted by BITES - a data analysis company - for the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ABERT): in recent months, the press has experienced an average of almost 4,000 cyber-attacks per day. Social networks are increasingly hostile territory for the press, with moral attacks, insults and cursing aimed at discrediting journalists and news outlets. There have also been cases of hacking and publication of journalists' data.

Physical aggressions against journalists continue, generally due to disagreement with the investigative and oversight roles of the press. In the last six months there is no record of any journalist having been murdered as a result of his or her journalistic activity.

Although less frequently than in previous periods, cases of judicial censorship continued - in clear disrespect for the Brazilian Constitution. An example was the censorship imposed by the Court of Amazonas on reports by the newspaper O Globo on inconsistencies and possible fraud related to the inadequate treatment of Covid 19 by a hospital in that Brazilian state.

The Court of Amazonas ordered the removal of texts on the subject from the newspaper's website and also blocked R$ 1.8 million from Editora Globo. The court's decisions were overturned by the Federal Supreme Court, as has happened before in such cases. But it is worrying that - even after several years of consecutive rulings by the country's highest court against judicial censorship - state judges continue to violate the constitutional principle which protects against any type of censorship.

Other attacks against journalists and media during this period:

Organizations defending journalists and press freedom - such as the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) - stated in different reports that during this period there were significant attacks against journalists and media outlets, and that in 69 percent of the cases the aggression was provoked by state officials.

On October 31, at least five news teams were attacked while covering one of President Jair Bolsonaro's tours in Rome, Italy - while he was attending the G20 meeting.

On March 28, journalists Daniel Camargos and Fernando Martinho - from Repórter Brasil news agency - were intimidated by two military police officers, one of them armed with a machine gun, while they were waiting to learn the stance of the British mining company Brasil Hierro on the investigation in Piatã (BA). The police were called to the site by the company, and the officers demanded that the communicators show the images of the report.

On April 14, Gabriel Luiz - a journalist for TV Globo in Brasilia - was attacked. The 28-year-old reporter was stabbed at least 10 times outside his apartment building. He was admitted in serious but stable condition and underwent several surgeries. It is not yet known if the attack has anything to do with his journalistic work, but local press organizations agreed that it is part of the climate of hostility and violence against the media and journalists - incited by Bolsonaro and his followers.