Produced by ARTICLE 19 South America, the report Violations of Freedom of Expression 2013 [Click for Portuguese version] documents crimes against free expression that were carried out against journalists and human rights defenders in Brazil in 2013.
The report focuses on the most serious violations including death threats, abductions, attempted murders and killings. It suggests the possible reasons for these violations and the people likely to be responsible for them. It also shows where in the country they took place, region by region.
Among the journalists who suffered violations in 2013 were a wide range of media workers, including reporters, radio broadcasters, bloggers, investigative reporters, TV presenters, photographers, cartoonists, and community journalists. The human rights defenders included rural and indigenous leaders, and environmental and political activists.
“There were at least 45 serious crimes against freedom of expression in 2013. This is not only extremely concerning but is today unacceptable in a democratic country like Brazil,” said Paula Martins, Director of ARTICLE 19 South America. “The Brazilian authorities, including government, courts and legislature across the federal system must take effective measures to avoid a similar level of violations in 2014.”
Overview of 2013
Journalists suffered 15 death threats, two abductions, eight murder attempts and four killings, a total of 29 violations. Human rights defenders suffered eight killings, one murder attempt and seven death threats, a total of 16 violations.
The report notes that, although there is no evidence of censorship being institutionalised within Brazilian state policy, where violations stop the journalist or human rights defender from working, censorship exists.
Six of the eight killings of human rights defenders appeared to be a response to the victims having spoken out against various illegal acts to do with land disputes. Half of these killings were committed in the state of Pará.
“Preventing a human rights defender from expressing themself is not only an individual threat, but also works as a way of disrupting any attention to the subject that they are working on,” said Martins.
Violations against journalists
The Southeast region saw the highest number of violations against journalists. It had eight, followed by the North with six, the Northeast with five, and the Centre-West with four.
Sub-divided by state, São Paulo had the most violations with five cases, followed by Rio Grande do Sul with four, and Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul, each with three.
It is clearly not only journalists in small, isolated towns who are vulnerable to violations concludes the report. Twelve violations were carried out in medium-sized cities (100,000-500,000 inhabitants). Nine cases took place in big cities (more than 500,000 inhabitants) and eight in small cities (less than 100,000 inhabitants).
Who was responsible?
In 23 of the cases, politicians, police officers and other public employees were suspected of being responsible. People linked to organised crime were the main suspects in four cases, and businessmen in two.
Violations against human rights defenders
The Northern region experienced the highest number of violations, a total of eight cases. Three cases were recorded in the Centre-West, two each in the Northeast and South, and one in the Southeast.
Sub-divided by state, Pará had seven cases, Mato Grosso Do Sul three, and Santa Catarina two.
Nine violations took place in small cities, five in medium-sized cities, and two in big cities.
These figures show the need to develop preventative measures to protect those human rights defenders living in smaller and more remote towns.
Who was responsible?
In 11 of the violations against human rights defenders, farmers or people involved in the extractive industries were suspected of being responsible. In two cases, people linked to organised crime were the main suspects. In the remaining two cases, a politician was suspected of being responsible for one and a police officer the other.
The report refers to the international standards that exist for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists. It concludes with a series of recommendations for the Brazilian state, international organisations, civil society and the media outlining what they need to do to address the problem.
The information in the report was gathered and analysed in a thorough and systematic way. Initially, a list of potential violations of freedom of expression was drawn up, taken from news stories in a wide range of media and from the testimonies of victims and witnesses. We then examined each case in detail, interviewing the victims and those who knew them, as well as relevant civil society organisations and the authorities working on the cases. Having ascertained which cases were probable violations of freedom of expression, we then used this information to create accurate records so that we could analyse the results and gain a clearer picture of both the overall situation and the detail.
A translation in English will be available shortly.