Abraji delivers letter to Senate President in defense of press freedom
  • 14.04
  • 2021
  • 18:57
  • Abraji

Liberdade de expressão

Acesso à Informação

Abraji delivers letter to Senate President in defense of press freedom

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and seven other organizations that defend press freedom and freedom of expression presented on April 7, 2021, Journalists' Day in Brazil, an open letter addressed to the presidents of the Brazilian Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG), and of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira (PP-AL). The letter calls on the leaders of the National Congress to commit to freedom of the press, as well as to the safety of the country's journalists and communicators.

The joint document contains seven recommendations for the National Congress to act to maintain Brazil as a safe environment for the press, ensuring mechanisms of transparency and access to information. In addition, the letter warns Pacheco and Lira to be alert to bills being discussed in both chambers that could have a negative impact on press freedom or restrict the work of these professionals in the country.

The letter has been signed by Abraji, Article 19, Conectas Human Rights, Intervozes, the National Federation of Journalists, the Vladimir Herzog Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters without Borders (RSF).

The proposals were presented in a virtual meeting between representatives of these organizations and Senator Rodrigo Pacheco.

The document recalls that Brazil is going through hard times, with a raise of threats and attacks on journalists and restrictions on press freedom, and describes an increasingly hostile environment for the practice of the profession:

"Difficulty in accessing public data, judicial censorship, removal of content, physical threats and attacks, defamatory campaigns and online harassment are elements that make up this environment. On top of that is the impunity of crimes committed against journalists".

The organizations express that, "despite the international commitments and guarantees established in the 1988 Federal Constitution, Brazil has failed to protect press freedom and shows risks of regression".

According to the representatives of the organizations, the meeting was intended to take advantage of the renewal of the congressional presidencies to reinforce the importance of the Legislative Branch in its role as guarantor of press freedom. In March 2020, Abraji and other organizations had already met with the then president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, to inform him of concrete problems faced by the entities that monitor the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression.

Abraji is analyzing almost 40 propositions being processed in both legislative chambers related to the press freedom and freedom of expression.

The seven recommendations sent to congressional leaders are as follows:

  • Guarantee that all bills that have an impact on access to information, journalistic work and press freedom are widely discussed with civil society, press freedom organizations, journalists and experts;
  • Guarantee that the advisors of the Social Communication Council of the National Congress are in place and fully operational, even remotely, so that bills dealing with communication issues are considered by the Council before being submitted to a final vote;
  • Guarantee the agility of internal legislative procedures in the evaluation of bills, transparency and due disclosure of information, within an adequate timeframe to ensure technical analysis and external debate with society;
  • Ensure that any bill passed complies with Brazil's international commitments regarding the right of access to information and freedom of the press;
  • Guarantee that any bill passed will abide by constitutional guarantees prohibiting censorship and protecting freedom of the press and the right to information, will respect international standards, and will also be an instrument for strengthening democracy and human rights;
  • Adopt a public discourse that contributes to prevent violence against communicators and to build an environment conducive to the free exercise of journalism and freedom of expression;
  • Publicly, unequivocally and systematically condemn any form of violence against communicators and encourage the competent authorities to act with due diligence and speed in investigating the facts and punishing those responsible.

Entities that monitor the situation of journalists

In the document sent to the two leaders, the organizations cite research that indicates that the situation of communicators has worsened in Brazil.

According to a report by the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj), in 2020 there were 428 attacks on journalists and the press, 105.77% more than in 2019. The most frequent attack was the discrediting of the press: 152 cases (35, 51%). President Jair Bolsonaro alone was the main aggressor, with 175 cases (40.89% of the total).

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has counted, in 2020 alone, no less than 580 cases of attacks on the press in official statements by high-ranking government officials, including ministers, parliamentarians and the president of the Republic.

Abraji's data reveal that, in a single month of 2021, the president was responsible for 11 of the 22 grievances against journalists committed by public officials. Bolsonaro is champion in blocking reporters on Twitter. Also according to Abraji, women journalists were victims of more than half of the aggressions in the digital space. In the first half of 2020, Abraji had already recorded 167 violations of freedom of expression.

Last year, Brazil was in eighth position in the Global Impunity Index for homicides of journalists, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a deterioration compared to 2019, when it was in ninth place.

Assinatura Abraji