Attacks against journalists in Brazil increase over last year, according to Fenaj

The cases of aggression against journalists in Brazil grew 36.7 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to a recent report from the National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj). There were 135 incidents of violence with 227 victims, according to the organization.

Fenaj report (Screenshot)

The main aggressors identified by Fenaj were voters/protesters, responsible for 22.2 percent of the cases of aggression – Brazil was home to a polarized presidential campaign last year. Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro targeted journalists the most, according to Fenaj: they were responsible for 23 of 30 incidents involving voters/protesters.

Part of the assaults occurred during voting days and victory celebrations. Bolsonaro does not have a good relationship with the press and repeatedly uses his Twitter account to complain about articles critical of his administration. Organizations defending the freedom of the press have already expressed concern about the new government.

Another important event of 2018 in Brazil, the truckers' strike, also contributed to the increase of aggressions against journalists. Dozens of professionals were prevented from covering the shutdowns and were attacked verbally or physically. According to Fenaj, 17 percent of aggressors in the cases recorded were truck drivers, or 23 cases.

The arrest of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was also a trigger for violence against journalists: Fenaj reported seven cases of assault at protests against Lula's conviction and imprisonment. The episode also prompted two attacks by military police officers and an occurrence of censorship - when the Federal Supreme Court prevented the press from interviewing the former president.

Fenaj highlighted the change in the profile of the aggressors. From 2013 to 2017, the main perpetrators of violence against journalists had been military police or municipal guards, who were third in number of incidents in 2018.

The president of the Federation, Maria José Braga, writes in the report that the fact that voters, protesters and truck drivers contributed to the increase in violence against press professionals "is an unequivocal demonstration that (these) groups and segments do not tolerate divergence and criticism and have no appreciation for democracy."

Fenaj also highlighted a homicide case in the state of Rondônia. Fenaj. The organization did not record any deaths due to the victim’s work as a journalist in 2017.

Ueliton Bayer Brizon, owner of the newspaper Jornal de Rondônia, and deputy councilor and municipal president of the Humanist Solidarity Party, was killed on Jan. 16, 2018. According to Fenaj, the cousin of the victim and councilor, Euzébio Brizon,  is investigated for the crime. The motivation of the murder is allegedly a family conflict.

The Federation also counted four other homicide cases in a separate category, as they were radio journalists: Marlon Carvalho de Araújo, who died in Bahia on Aug. 16; Jefferson Pureza Lopes, who died in Goiás on Feb. 17; Jairo Souza, who died in Pará on June 21; and Severino Faustino Almeida, who died in Paraíba on Oct. 24.

Profile of the victims

Most journalists attacked last year were victims of physical assaults (24.4 percent of incidents), followed by threats and intimidation (20.7 percent) and verbal abuse (20 percent). Impediments to practicing journalism also increased significantly and reached 14.8 percent of the cases in 2018.

The southeastern region of the country recorded the highest number of occurrences (39.2 percent of the total), with emphasis on the State of São Paulo (20.7 percent of the total). The southern region ranked second in terms of violence (28.1 percent), most of it in Paraná (16 percent), where former President Lula is in prison.

Despite being a majority in the profession (67 percent), women journalists were not as frequently the targets of assault. The majority of the victims (46.2 percent) were male, a trend recorded by Fenaj since the 1990s.

Television crews were most often targeted for violence, accounting for 39.2 percent of all victims. Then there are the print media professionals, who accounted for 20.9 percent of the occurrences.