On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the undersigned civil society organizations draw the attention of public authorities and society to the risks of attacks on press freedom in 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 the media play an essential role in holding governments and public authorities accountthe at society.
During an election period, the role of a free press becomes even more vital in guaranteeing access to the information necessary for citizen participation in public debate and the electoral process in a conscious and informed manner. Attempts to weaken or restrict the work of journalists and the media in an electoral context not only violate the public’s right to information: they also undermine democratic processes.
The 2022 elections in Brazil take place within a context of increasing attacks on journalists and communicators and attacks on press freedom, which are likely to get worse during the campaign period. In light of these concernsthe undersigned national and international organizations talk to alert the authorities and society as a whole to these risks and underline the importance of collective action to guarantee the free exercise of journalistic work during the election period.
In recent years, and particularly during the last two elections in 2018 and 2020, journalists, communicators and media have faces various types of attacks, including:
- physical assault, including by public authorities and their subordinates;
- offensive and stigmatizing discourse from public authorities, which contributes to a general hostile environment toward the entire press and, on several occasions, yielded in widespread harassment of specific journalists, especially in the digital environment;
- discredit gender-based online campaigns, including misogynistic slurs and doxing (exposure of personal data) of women journalists and broadcasters, often because of their political coverage;
- suppression of journalistic content and censorship through legal proceedings in civil courts, often initiated by public authorities, politicians and candidates during the election period;
- criminalization of journalists through police investigations, including cases based on the National Security Law, and criminal prosecutions for slander and defamation, backed by outdated Brazilian criminal legislation that outlaw so-called “honour crimes”;
In addition to these direct attacks on journalists, communicators and media, authorities at all levels of government have trying 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, the authorities and institutions of the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – must respect the freedom of the press and, above all, take proactive measures to protect journalists and the media. make sure they can work safely.
Public servants, both executive and legislative at the federal and state levels, as well as candidates participating in elections, should refrain from hold a speech targeting journalists, encouraging attacks on the press, restriction of access to information or prosecution of journalists, communicators and media.
Members of the National Congress, state legislatures, and the district legislature must sustain their role in monitoring the respective branches of the executive regarding press freedom violations.
Law enforcement authorities and the judiciary must ensure prompt investigation and accountability of crimes committed against journalists, thereby breaking the cycof the the impunity that fuels violence and censorship.
The judiciary must respect 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 broadcasters.
Finally, we call on society as a whole to defend journalism and freedom of the press, especially during this election period. Jhe 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 job safely and without risk of reprisals of any kind. Such a practice is essential for ensuring democratic elections and for democracy itself.
Brazil, May 3, 2022.
Abraji – Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism
Ajor – Digital Journalism Association
Journalists Protection Committee
FENAJ – National Federation of Journalists
FNDC – National Forum for the Democratization of Communication
Vladimir Herzog Institute
RSF – Reporters Without Borders