UNESCO reports examine freedom of expression and media regulation in Brazil

Several studies launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in association with the Ford Foundation, discuss the regulation of Brazilian media, reported Agência Brasil. According to UNESCO, the objective is to contribute to the debate about the role of communications in the strengthening of democracy.

In the first document, “The Broadcast Regulatory Environment: An Investigation of Best Practices for Brazilian Stakeholders,” UNESCO compares the broadcast reality in Brazil with countries like the United States, France, the U.K., and South Africa. The organization defends regulating the broadcast sector as a way to maintain diversity and pluralism.

UNESCO also recommends changes to Brazil's legislation, such as the creation of an independent media regulatory agency, added Globo News. “We know that to leave in the hands of the Legislature the power to grant (frequency) concessions is an anomaly that threatens democracy and puts at risk human rights," the report said.

According to Brasil, the report also suggests facilitating the licensing process and providing more resources for public broadcasters. Another recommendation, more controversial, is the establishment of national and local programming cuotas, which go against the interests of the commercial sector.

The other two studies, “Freedom of Expression and Broadcasting Regulation” and “The Importance of Self-Regulation of Media in Upholding Freedom of Expression,” contain reflections about the influence of regulation on the promotion and defense of freedom of expression. Among the suggestions highlighted is self regulation of the sector as an alternative to government control.

For the UNESCO representative in Brazil, Vincent Defourny, although the reports focus on traditional media, the main principles also apply to new media.

Journalism organizations reacted to the reports with suspicion. According to Folha de S. Paulo, the general director of the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters, Luiz Roberto Antonik, said that UNESCO's proposals have an "ideologically biased." Also, the National Association of Newspapers came out against any prior control of journalistic content, reported Estado de S. Paulo.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.