Journalists from Brazilian public media protest against restriction of coverage of Marielle Franco’s murder

Journalists and radio broadcasters at Empresa Brasileira de Comunicação (Brazil Communication Company, or EBC), a federal public agency, protested on March 20 against direction given by company managers to reduce coverage of the murders of Marielle Franco, a city councilor for Rio de Janeiro, and her driver Anderson Gomes, both killed in a March 14 shooting.

The deaths of Franco and Gomes have prompted a series of protests throughout Brazil and in other countries, such as Portugal, the United States, France and Germany, among others. The murders and resulting protests have also been covered internationally by newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times the The Guardian.

According to Metrópoles, on March 16, newsroom manager Roberto Cordeiro of Agência Brasil -- a national public news agency that is part of EBC along with Rádio Nacional and TV Brasil -- sent an email to the team requesting "to reduce material about the death of councilor Marielle Franco." According to him, "these tributes of the PSol [party of the councilwoman] are meant to take advantage of the moment. Or other repercussions of that kind. We should focus on the investigations and what the authorities say.”

On March 19, the executive manager of Agência Brasil, Alberto Coura, wrote to the Rio de Janeiro team and asked the coordinator to direct a reporter "not to cover demonstrations over the death of the councilwoman." "They are repetitive and tiring. In the papers there are only articles and, you know, we do not publish this form of opinion. Of course, if there is a relevant fact, it should be done," Coura wrote, according to Metrópoles.

In the early afternoon of the 20th, the journalists interrupted their work in protest of the Agência Brasil managers’ direction. According to O Globo, the professionals sought protection from the Union of Journalists of the Federal District (SJPDF).

SJPDF coordinator Gésio Passos told Globo that the managers' directions are not compatible with the company's mission and demonstrate the group's lack of editorial independence as well as external interference in production. "In addition to the public denunciation of the case, we will go before the Federal Public Ministry with representation to investigate the abuse,” he said.

In a note sent to Comunique-se on March 20, EBC says that the company's management was "surprised by the information that there was guidance at Agência Brasil to reduce the coverage of the murders" and that the subject "has been widely covered by all of the group’s outlets."

The company said that "Agência Brasil alone produced from March 14 to 12:09 pm this Tuesday, 41 reports, six image galleries, one report in English and two in Spanish on the murders of Marielle and Anderson."

"The guidance given by the management of Agência Brasil contradicts the determination of the editorial command of the company to always guide its outlets toward the best practice of journalism. (...) In view of the incident, the person responsible was formally warned, and the management sent a notice to all its employees reinforcing the company's editorial premise," the statement said.

The SJPDF released a statement on March 20 entitled "EBC's Abducted Journalism," signed by unions of journalists and radio broadcasters in the Federal District, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the National Federation of Journalists and representatives of EBC employees. The entities criticize the federal government's stance, which "says it helps investigate the case, but calls for lower coverage by EBC." "A serious double game against democracy," they say.

The groups also advise employees that the Codes of Ethics of Journalists and EBC itself protect the right to "refuse to produce, write, edit and finalize" content and not to sign material if they feel constrained or disagree "with imposed coverage, with illegal characteristics."

More Articles