Bolsonaro wants to arm journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s “absurd and dangerous” decision to authorize the carriage of firearms by certain journalists for their personal protection.

Under a terse decree signed by the president on 7 May and published in the official gazette yesterday, “professional journalists who cover crime” are among the many categories of citizens now allowed to carry firearms in public. The other categories include lawyers, traffic police officers and “residents of rural areas.”

This surprise decision, which was not preceded by any consultation with organizations that represent Brazil’s media, followed an earlier decree that Bolsonaro signed on 15 January, a few days after being sworn in. It loosened the rules for acquiring firearms but did not authorize their carriage in public, one of his leading campaign promises.

This decision sets a dangerous precedent and does nothing to resolve the security problems that many Brazilian journalists face,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk. “It is with the tools they use to communicate, not with firearms, that journalists fulfil their heavy responsibility to report the news.

Four journalists were murdered in Brazil in 2018, amid an increase in the vulnerability of independent reporters covering stories linked to corruption, public policy and organized crime in small and mid-sized towns.

Bolsonaro’s government has been fuelling a climate of mistrust and confrontation with the media ever since it took office. RSF urges the authorities to focus their efforts on preventing the risks linked to coverage of sensitive subjects, and on reinforcing state mechanisms for protecting journalists.

According to the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Brazil had more firearm deaths in 2016 than any other country in the world, including the United States, India and Mexico.

Brazil fell three places in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index that RSF unveiled on 18 April and is now ranked 105th out of 180 countries.

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Updated on 09.05.2019