78th General Assembly

October 27 – 30, 2022

Madrid, Spain


The press freedom situation continues to be critical, and even worsened in the run-up to the first round of the general elections on October 2 - especially in the digital sphere.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), since the beginning of the campaign on August 16, 2.8 million messages with offensive content toward journalists were registered - 86% against female journalists. According to RSF, most of the messages came from President Jair Bolsonaro, his political allies, his family and supporters.

Some attacks went beyond social networks and were delivered in person. During the campaign, the main target of the president and his allies was journalist Vera Magalhães - a columnist for O Globo newspaper, CBN radio station and host of Cultura TV. During the first presidential candidates' debate - August 28 on Band TV network - the president attacked the journalist, just after she asked a question about vaccines to candidate Ciro Gomes (PDT). "Vera, I couldn't expect anything different from you (...) You are a disgrace to journalism," said Bolsonaro.

On September 13, state congressman Douglas Garcia - an ally of President Bolsonaro - repeated the practice and tried to intimidate Vera Magalhães at the end of the gubernatorial debate in São Paulo - promoted by TV Cultura in partnership with UOL and Folha de São Paulo. Filming the journalist with his cell phone, the parliamentarian repeated the president's phrase: "You are a disgrace to journalism." He also questioned her salary.

Physical attacks on journalists continue - generally over disagreements on their role. On September 21, reporters Bruno Motta and Alexandre Perassoli - from TV Centro América, a TV Globo affiliate in Mato Grosso - were threatened and assaulted by a rural producer while reporting on fires in cotton production.

The attack on the Mato Grosso professionals is just one of hundreds of press freedom infringements that the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) identified in 2022. Of the total number of cases reported during the year (353), 81 are serious cases: involving physical violence, material destruction of equipment, threats and murders. The figure represents a 33% increase compared to the same period in 2021 (61).

The most emblematic case of violence was the murder of British journalist Dom Phillips - a contributor to The Guardian newspaper. He was murdered - along with indigenous activist Bruno Pereira - on June 5 in Amazonas. They were investigating illegal fishing, hunting and mining activities. The bodies were found 10 days later, on one of the banks of the Itaquaí river. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF) identified and denounced three people charged with double murder in the first degree and concealment of corpse. The Federal Court of Amazonas accepted the charges and the indicted are in prison awaiting trial. The alleged mastermind of the crime is also in jail. The investigation continues.

In the last six months there were also cases of judicial censorship. One of the most flagrant was the decision of the Court of the Federal District and Territories ordering the UOL portal to pull from the air two articles and posts on its social media regarding reports on the use of cash in 51 of the 107 properties acquired by the Bolsonaro family in the last 30 years. The decision was overturned shortly thereafter by Minister André Mendonça, of the Supreme Court (STF).

The same happened in a case involving the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. Minister Luiz Fux - of the STF - overturned the censorship imposed by the Court of Justice of Rio Grande do Sul - which forbade the São Paulo newspaper to publish a report on a shooting club. Although the STF overturned both rulings, the media expressed concern that the lower court judges do not uphold the constitutional principles - even after repeated rulings by the country's highest court against judicial censorship in recent years.