Brazil: Organizations call for press freedom guarantees in 2022 elections
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the undersigned civil society organizations draw the attention of public authorities and society to the risks of press freedom violations during this election year in Brazil.
Access to information is a fundamental human right for the exercise of citizenship and the strengthening of democracy. In addition to their role in guaranteeing the right to information, journalists, communicators, and media outlets play an essential role in holding governments and public authorities accountable to society.
During an electoral period, the role of a free press becomes even more vital to guarantee access to information necessary for citizen participation in public debate and in the electoral process in a conscious and informed way. Attempts to weaken or restrict the work of journalists and media outlets in an electoral context not only violate the public’s right to information: they also undermine democratic processes.
The 2022 elections in Brazil will take place within a context of increasing attacks against journalists and communicators and press freedom violations, which are likely to escalate during the campaign period. In light of these concerns, the undersigned national and international organizations are speaking out to alert authorities and society as a whole about these risks and highlight the importance of collective action to guarantee the free exercise of journalistic work during the electoral period.
In recent years, and particularly during the last two elections in 2018 and 2020, journalists, communicators and media outlets have faced various kinds of attacks, including:
- physical aggression, including by public authorities and their subordinates;
- offensive and stigmatizing discourse from public authorities, which contributes to a general environment of hostility toward the press as a whole and, on several occasions, has resulted in widespread harassment of specific journalists, particularly in the digital environment;
- discrediting gender-based online campaigns, including misogynistic slurs and doxing (exposure of personal data) of women journalists and communicators, often as a result of their political coverage;
- removal of journalistic content and censorship through legal proceedings in civil courts, often initiated by public authorities, politicians and candidates during the electoral period;
- criminalization of journalists through police investigations, including cases based on the National Security Law, and criminal prosecution for slander and defamation, supported by outdated Brazilian criminal legislation that still outlaws so-called “crimes against honor”;
In addition to these direct attacks against journalists, communicators and media outlets, authorities at all levels of government have attempted to reduce transparency and limit access to public data, restricting journalistic work and coverage of topics of public interest.
In order to strengthen the democratic process, authorities and institutions of the three branches of government – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary – must respect press freedom and, above all, proactively take action to protect journalists and media outlets to ensure they can work safely.
Public officials, from both the Executive and Legislative at the federal and state levels, as well as candidates participating in elections, should refrain from engaging in speech that targets journalists, instigating attacks against the press, restricting access to information or prosecuting journalists, communicators and media outlets.
Members of the National Congress, state Legislative Assemblies and the District Legislative Chamber must uphold their role of monitoring the respective Executive branches in relation to press freedom violations.
Police authorities and the justice system must ensure prompt investigation of and accountability for crimes committed against journalists, thus breaking the cycle of impunity that fuels violence and censorship.
The Judiciary must respect the constitutional and international rights of access to information and freedom of the press, and refrain from making decisions that censor journalistic content or criminalize journalists and communicators.
Finally, we call on society as a whole to defend journalism and press freedom, particularly during this electoral period. The undersigned organizations will engage in a collective effort to remain alert and vigilant on this issue throughout the elections. It is urgent that journalists and communicators can do their work safely and without risk of retaliation of any kind. Such practice is essential for guaranteeing democratic elections and for democracy itself.
Brazil, May 3, 2022.
Abraji – Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism
Ajor – Digital Journalism Association
Committee to Protect Journalists
FENAJ – National Federation of Journalists
FNDC – National Forum for the Democratization of Communication
Instituto Vladimir Herzog
RSF – Reporters Without Borders