The decision to suspend attendance at the informal press conferences that Bolsonaro gives almost daily outside the Alvorada presidential palace in Brasilia was announced on 26 May by the Globo group (which includes TV Globo, the O Globo and Valor Econômico newspapers and the G1 news website), the Bandeirantes media group, Folha de São Paulo (Brazil’s leading daily) and the Metropoles news website.
Although it issued no formal statement, the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper also decided to stop sending reporters. The Correio Braziliense newspaper has already been staying away from the president’s press conferences since the start of May
This week’s unprecedented announcement came one day after the latest of many scenes of verbal violence and aggressiveness by Bolsonaro’s supporters, who have been separated by only low barriers from the reporters covering the president’s frequent public appearances in front of the Alvorada Palace.
The media outlets said the suspension was necessary because their reporters’ safety was not guaranteed. Bolsonaro’s supporters have taken to insulting and threatening them while the president looks on with evident amusement. The press conference on 25 May saw a distinct increase in the aggressiveness of the 60 or so activists shouting insults at the reporters from behind a low barrier.
Later the same day, when the president went to have lunch at the nearby defence ministry, some of the same activists tried to surround the journalists outside and seemed ready to attack them physically, until military police finally dispersed them. Yesterday, a CNN Brazil reporter was accosted and insulted by an especially aggressive Bolsonaro supporter outside the presidential palace.
“It is disgraceful and unacceptable that a public building that symbolizes the republic has become the setting for shocking and systematic attacks against journalists by President Bolsonaro and his supporters,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.
“The authorities must guarantee the necessary security conditions so that the entire press can put questions to the president. RSF also expresses its solidarity with Brazilian journalists, whose work in an increasing hostile environment is more essential than ever during the pandemic.”
President Bolsonaro reacted to the announcement by accusing the media of trying to “victimize themselves.” Ever since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – in which Brazil has been hit harder than any other Latin American country and is now the world epicentre – Bolsonaro has persisted in trying to deny its reality and has preferred to attack the media.
This was explained in the first of a series of quarterly reports on Brazil in which RSF analysed the methods used by Bolsonaro to discredit and undermine the media outlets that annoy him most.
Brazil is ranked 107th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.