Concerning the worsening climate for free expression in Brazil

Monday, December 16, 2013

His Excellency Piragibe dos Santos Tarragô, Ambassador of Brazil to Canada
Embassy of Brazil
450 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6M8

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is concerned by the growing number of journalists working in Brazil who have been physically threatened, attacked, or killed in the past year.

Between 2010 and 2012, free expression organization Article 19 recorded the murder of seven journalists. As of October 17, 2013, the murder of radio director Claudio Moleiro de Souza marks the sixth journalist murdered this year. This disappointing trend is coupled with an alarming number of journalists who have been assaulted while covering widespread demonstrations in the country, beginning in June 2013. 98 violations of this type were counted by Brazilian investigative journalism organization ABRAJI, with 71% of them a direct result of interactions with police.

One of the roles of journalists in a society is to provide citizens with access to information that is thoroughly researched and vetted. Considering the recent protests in Brazil, it is of the utmost importance that Brazilian authorities safeguard the press as they seek to render an objective view of these current events. The right to free expression is a fundamental one in any healthy democracy as it allows an exchange of ideas to occur in public space in a civil manner, without the use of force. It is crucial that journalists reporting on events are not attacked or hindered by police in their attempts to do so.

In 2010, Brazil had made sizable strides towards improving the climate for free expression and in rectifying widespread impunity. However, the years since have seen the country backslide where these issues are concerned. Brazil has found itself on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2013 Impunity Index and recent police brutality against journalists does not bode well for the country’s human rights records.

CJFE calls on the Brazilian government to take steps to ensure that police who used excessive force against protesters and journalists covering said protests are held accountable. CJFE also urges the Brazilian government to review law enforcement policy for interacting with journalists on the job, respecting their right to report safely.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. Jamal Khokhar, Ambassador of Canada to Brazil
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs