Brazil’s protection for human rights defenders extended to journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other press freedom NGOs met this week in Brasilia with the staff of Brazil’s mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, which will now also be available to journalists in danger.

RSF welcomes the decision to extend the range of those covered by the mechanism. It is intended to permanently reinforce the protection available to journalists and is fully justified by the violence to which many of them are exposed in Brazil.

The protection provided by the mechanism – which was created in 2004 and is attached to the Ministry for Human Rights (MDH) – was extended on 4 September to “comunicadores,” a term that in Brazil covers not only staff journalists but also freelancers, non-professional journalists and bloggers.

An expansion of the mechanism’s scope has long been one of RSF’s main recommendations in Brazil and its realization now is the result of a rapprochement between the MDH and the press freedom groups in the National Human Rights Council’s “Standing Committee for the Right to Communication and Freedom of Expression.”

During the meeting in Brasilia on 10 September, RSF shared its expertise, helped define the types of threats and the profile of victims, and assisted MDH staff, whose initial goal from now until the end of the year is to publicize the extension of the mechanism’s protection. Exactly how it will be implemented and the criteria for determining who benefits in practice have yet to be determined.

“This extension of the mechanism to journalists is a very encouraging first step and testifies to the Brazilian government’s determination to provide journalists with effective and lasting protection in Brazil,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.

“It is essential that the many vulnerable journalists should be able to turn to the authorities to obtain protection. RSF is going to work with the MDH in order to ensure that as many people as possible within the journalistic profession are made aware of this new provision.”

Under the decree published in the official gazette on 4 September, personal protection will be available to journalists engaged in “a regular social communication activity, paid or unpaid, whose goal is to promote and defend human rights” and “whose work leads to threats and violence designed to end these activities.”

At least 29 journalists have been murdered in Brazil since 2010, three of them since the start of this year. Outside the main urban areas, journalists – especially radio programme hosts – who cover subjects linked to local politics and corruption are systematically threatened and subjected to reprisals.

Brazil is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 12.09.2018