Brazil’s police must protect reporters during pro-Bolsonaro protests, says RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Brazil’s federal government to ensure that the police protect media personnel, as former President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters have attacked at least 35 reporters since launching their assault on Brazil’s three most important democratic institutions in Brasilia on 8 January and are calling for more protests.

The media toll keeps on rising. At least 15 journalists were attacked while covering the invasion and ransacking of the presidential palace, congress and supreme court by the far-right former president’s supporters on 8 January. And since then, at least 20 other attacks on the media have been registered during operations to dismantle the camps of Bolsonaro supporters in various parts of the country.

“The governors of Brazil’s 27 states must urgently give clear instructions to their police forces to guarantee the safety of the journalists who will be covering the demonstrations announced by the former president’s supporters. The scenes of police passivity while journalists were attacked by pro-Bolsonaro activists in Brasilia on 8 January must not be repeated.

Artur Romeu
Director of RSF’s Latin America bureau

A request to this effect was made to Paulo Pimenta, the communication minister in President Lula da Silva’s newly installed administration, when Pimenta held an emergency meeting on 9 January with journalists who had been attacked and with press freedom organisations including RSF.

From the day after the second round of the presidential election on 30 October to the day before the invasion of Brasilia on 8 January, no fewer than 78 acts of aggression against journalists were registered by the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ) and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI). They included threats, harassment, physical assaults, destruction of equipment and physical attacks on the headquarters of two media outlets.

Pimenta condemned the violence against the media, reaffirmed the Lula administration’s commitment to press freedom and undertook to prioritise the identification of those responsible for these attacks. Special provision is to be made for the Federal District’s civil police to take statements from those journalists who were attacked. Pimenta added that this type of behaviour could not be tolerated and that the new administration will end the climate of hostility towards the media that prevailed under Bolsonaro.

After four years of overt governmental hostility towards the media, the new administration’s decision to hold this emergency meeting with the media signalled a major improvement in relations between the authorities and journalists.

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