Brazil: Journalists Face Intimidation in Campaign
Presidential candidates should vigorously denounce threats and violence against journalists covering the election campaign in Brazil, several Brazilian and international nongovernmental organizations said today. Scores of reporters have been harassed, threatened, and in some cases physically attacked.
The organizations are the Article 19, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Conectas H uman Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters without Borders (RSF).
PatrÃcia Campos Mello, a reporter from Folha de SÃ£o Paulo, received an avalanche of threats online, two threatening calls, and her Whatsapp account was hacked after she uncovered and reported on an alleged campaign by business backers of the presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro to distribute false news stories through WhatsApp to millions of Brazilians.
After that report, Mauro Paulino, a Folha de SÃ£o Paulo executive, also received threats through a messaging app and at home, the newspaper said. In addition, the paper said Bolsonaro supporters engaged in a âsystematicâ attack against one of its Whatsapp numbers, which received 220,000 messages in four days. That made it impossible for reporters to follow up on messages sent by its readers, said Folha.
On October 23, the paper requested the Superior Electoral Court to order the Federal Police to open an inves tigation into what it considers a possible âorchestrated attempt to thwart freedom of expression.â
âThe threats are unacceptable; they must be investigated and those responsible be held accountable in order to protect responsible, investigative, and independent journalism,â said Juana Kweitel, executive director of Conectas Human Rights.
âThe threats against PatrÃcia Campos Mello and other journalists are an alarming escalation of anti-press rhetoric in this contentious electoral cycle in Brazil,â said Natalie Southwick, CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator. âJournalists covering the Brazilian presidential election must be able to work freely and safely while reporting on issues of public interest. We call on candidates from all parties to respect press freedom and refrain from inflammatory statements against the media, and to urge their supporters to stop harassing and threatening journalists.â
The Brazilian Association of Investi gative Journalism (Abraji) has documented 141 cases of threats and violence against reporters covering the elections. Most of them were allegedly carried out by Bolsonaro supporters, while the rest allegedly involved Workers Party supporters. The online harassment of women reporters covering the elections often includes sexual insults and threats of sexual violence, Article 19 found.
âIn order to demonstrate some commitment to the preservation of democracy, both candidates must condemn the intimidation of journalists rather than encourage such practice,â said Daniel Bramatti, president of Abraji.
In March, unidentified assailants shot at a bus that carried 28 reporters who were covering a Workers Party event. Nobody was hurt. Workers Party supporters have also allegedly harassed and hit reporters.
âItÂ´s unacceptable that people are harassed or attacked due to their work or political opinion. This has a huge chilling effect for the whole society. We need more freedom of expression to foster our democratic institutions,â said Laura Tresca, acting executive director of Article 19 South America.
âAttacks by supporters of presidential candidates against the press are unacceptable and unworthy of any party that aspires to govern the country,â said Emmanuel ColombiÃ©, the head of RSFâs Latin America bureau. âThe hate speech and disinformation campaigns are exacerbating tensions in Brazilâs already highly polarized society. RSF backs all Brazilian journalists, whose work during this turbulent period is essential.â
The harassment and intimidation of journalists occurs in a context of polarization and heightened political violence against LGBT people, women, Afro-Brazilians, and those expressing different political views than the aggressors. On October 8, a man stabbed to death Romualdo RosÃ¡rio da Costa at a bar in Salvador, allegedly after the man became angry when da Costa revealed he had voted for Fernando Haddad, the Workers Party candidate for president. Bolsonaro himself was the victim of a violent attack during a rally in September.
âOne can disagree with a media report, and should have the right to say so publicly, but threatening the reporter and inciting others to do the same not only endangers journalistsâ personal safety, but it undermines free speech and democracy,â said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. âPresidential candidates should defend reportersâ right to inform the public and the publicâs right to be informed.âSource: Google News South Brazil | Netizen 24 Brazil