According to the National Federation of Journalists, investigations into corruption and organized crime in all Brazilian states have reached 858 over the past two years. This is the highest figure so far.
Cases of violence against journalists in Brazil have always been reported, such as the murder of Luiz Eduardo Merlino during the military dictatorship (1971) and Mário Eugênio Rafael de Oliveira, aka Gogó das Sete (1984). These are some of the many episodes of violence suffered by journalists during or after the publication of political, police or investigative reports in the media. One of the most emblematic cases in Brazil was that of journalist Vladimir Herzog, known as Vlado. According to historical documents, the crime happened after he voluntarily presented himself to testify at the Information Operations Detachment – Internal Defense Operations Center (DOI-CO- DI), a political repression body created by internal Army directives during the Emílio Médici’s presidency (1969- 1974), with the aim of fighting com- munism, subversive actions and leftist organizations.
The scenario of violence against journalists has not changed much after the country’s redemocratization in the late 1980s. News coverage and investigations into politics, corruption and organized crime carried out in Brazilian states in the last two years, 2020/2021, according to the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), have the highest rates, 858 records of violence. Today, cyber attacks, virtual aggression, discrediting the press, impediment of professional practice, racial slurs/racism, among others have become more present on the internet, as detailed in the FENAJ report in 2021. Among the 430 cases of violence in 2021, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) was responsible for 147 of them, which totals 34.19%. Of this total, 129 episodes were of discrediting the press, by making use of terms such as “scoundrel”, “quadruped”, “pickers”, “idiot”, among others, in addition to sending a professional shut up.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was responsible for 147 of 430 violence cases in 2021, made heavy accusations to discredit the press. Something that already worries union representatives. “We are watching with great concern. We fear that the escalation of violence when preparations for the coup against President Dilma Rousseff will be repeated. We may have an intensification of popular demonstrations with people wanting to “take it out” on press professionals. We are already talking to company directors to monitor this throughout the year”, points out the Union of Journalists of Goiás (Sindjor).
Relevant concern, since journalists are guided to cover political demonstrations promoted by different political currents. And the streets are favorable environments for possible cases of violence, such as those recorded in Fenaj’s 2021 report: verbal aggression, threats, intimidation and violence against workers’ organizations/trade unions. A concern shared by the president of the Union of Journalists of Acre (Sinjac), Luiz Cordeiro, “Sinjac is concerned about this frightening escalation of violence against journalists. We live, today, in a country of extremes, and true journalism, which is guided by social responsibility and impartiality, will have an arduous mission, which will be to take information and be very careful with attacks promoted by extremists motivated by hatred and by ideologies.”
The concern of state unions is even more visible when we look at the 26 states plus the Federal District. The 2021 Fenaj report pointed to occurrences of violence in different states plus the Federal District, something that raises the attention of institutions to combat all forms of violence and support journalists. Among the regions, for the second consecutive year, the Midwest had the highest incidence of attacks on freedom of the press, 169 cases in 2021. In addition, it recorded six cases of violence against journalists in Goiás. Two cases in Mato Grosso and two more cases in Mato Grosso do Sul were also recorded.
A care also adopted by the Union of Journalists of Mato Grosso, where the institution seeks to be present in different regions of the state to support professionals, have a good relationship with the police forces, dialogue with public bodies, in addition to “structuring the legal department to assist journalists residing in cities in Mato Grosso and the institution”, highlighted trade unionist Itamar Perenha.
It is against this backdrop of violence and political polarization in Brazil that journalists prepare to cover this year’s general elections. A lawsuit that in the years 2014 and 2016 recorded 364 episodes of violence against journalists, representing 30.76% of the cases investigated by Fenaj in 2020 and 2021. Something that according to Cordeiro (Sinjac), worries more about national coverage of the elections due to the po- larized environment than in the state. “I believe that at the national level, yes. Even because of the scenario that has been shown, where information is attacked, because a pole understands that the fact is not favorable to its convictions.”
“Unfortunately, journalists here in the State do not make the attacks that they suffer in the exercise of their functions reach the Union. However, recently, through the press, we received information about the case of the mayor of Bagé, who exposed the identity of the inves- tigative reporter, Giovani Grizzotti. This year, Daniel Carniel, a journalist from Garibaldi/RS, received 10 internal and external stitches in his mouth and had several bruises on his body, when he was attacked by two men who ambushed him, in front of the building where he works, from local TV. He believes there are political reasons behind this attack and, for now, the police have not found any suspects, despite appearing on security cameras”, Seabra.
“It is known that he will be a candidate for reelection and will compete with the one who was removed from the election, in 2018, for being the likely winner, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, political prisoner in a legal web carried out by Judge Sérgio Moro – and then, made Bolsonaro’s minister. The traps engendered by this group that took over the government are unmasked by the free press and, therefore, this hatred, this violence against journalists. It is regrettable to believe that the scenario should be worse, with violence increasing in the pre-election period this year, which promises to be tumultuous”, explained Seabra.
These numbers place Brazil as one of the most dangerous countries for the exercise of professional journalism, as they expose communicators to physical and psychological violence in a year in which information, investigation and journalistic investigation are important to help Brazilian citizens in the evaluation of their representatives in the Executive and Legislative branches.
Violence against women journalists
In Brazil, despite the majority of the press being made up of women, men were victims of violence in 55.89% of cases, however, despite the facts against women representing 26.64% in 2021, Fenaj figures the episodes collected and passed on in the media, especially in political coverage, reveal the difficulties of being a communicator in Brazil that is pointed out by the Rio Grande Do Sul Union, “the increase in violence against journalists and especially women journalists, after the 2016 coup, against the then president is undeniable. Dilma Rousseff,” Seabra said.
Last year, 61.3% took place while professionals were covering political issues. One of the victims of these attacks was CNN Brasil presenter Daniela Lima. She was the target of seven assault cases between January and November 2021, all involving stigmatizing speech. In another case, President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) sent reporter Laurene Santos, from TV Vanguarda, an affiliate of TV Globo in São José dos Campos (SP), after being questioned for not wearing a mask at a public event.
Training of new political journalists
Despite the violent environment for journalists in Brazil, there are actions to develop political journalism in the country. In addition to universities that offer journalism courses, government institutions, the private sector and non-governmental organizations offer free courses to train students and newly graduated journalists interested in cov- ering politics in Brazil.
The “Project Reporter of the Future”, maintained by the communication company Oboré, is one of them. Since 1994, it has sought to promote self-development alternatives for journalism students who wish to deepen their knowledge and practice of reporting. With a focus on covering the political agenda, the Ricardo Boechat Political Journalism Course and Award, maintained by the Municipality of Itapevi (SP), seeks to help train future political journalists in the country. “This course aims to join the efforts of Journalism schools to improve the training of journalists who already cover the political area or are interested in joining this editorship”, comments the coordinator of the action Cilene Victor.
Actions that are added to the activities focused on the development of political journalism promoted by the Instituto do Legislativo Paulista, Saberes, Oficina Municipal, among others, which, in the view of the director general of the School of Parliament of Itapevi, Roberto Lamari, strengthens freedom of the press and the journalist’s work. “The free press, with access to information and knowledge of the role of public authorities and the political system, reinforces the Brazilian democratic regime and ensures that the citizen is well informed daily about political life. This informational work values citizenship”, says the director.
Prof. PhD. Roberto CHIACHIRI
- Full professor and researcher at the Methodist University of São Paulo (UMESP), where he is the leader of the Semio Humanitas Research Group. He is post-doctoral by the University of Paris 1 – Sorbonne, PhD and Master in Communication and Semiotics by PUCSP. Director, in Brazil, of the UNESCO / UME- SP Chair of Communication for regional development. Member of the: International Association of Semiotics (Brazil delegate), Latin Federation of Semiotics, Brazilian Association of Semiotics, French Association of Semiotics and International Association of Visual Semiotics. Representative in Brazil of the scientific journal Hermès la Revue of CNRS-France (directed by Dominique Wol- ton). Invited professor at the European University – Lisbon – and at Sorbonne Paris 1.
- Brazilian, Journalist, Specialist in Contemporary Political Science and Master in Social Communication.