Brazil | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Brazil

Brazil

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

39

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

15

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

The 1988 constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and these rights are usually respected in practice. Despite the generally open legal environment, broadcasting services operate under the 1962 telecommunications code, and the draconian Press Law-in place since it was imposed by the military dictatorship in 1967-is still on the books. However, a 2004 constitutional amendment that places crimes against human rights under federal jurisdiction has marginally improved the environment in which journalists operate. Press freedom continues to be hampered by civil and criminal defamation lawsuits that have numbered in the thousands in the last five years and are frequently used by politicians, public officials, and businessmen as tools of intimidation against journalists and the news media. Lower court judges have often interpreted articles of the civil and penal codes to rule against the press in cases of "moral damages," imposing disproportionately high fines and granting injunctions against the press. In April, for example, a judge in the state of Goias accepted legislator Ronaldo Caiado's request to seize copies of the book In the Lions' Den by Fernando de Moraes under the argument that the book contained "libelous references" to the politician. In May, Justice Gabriel Marques prohibited broadcast in the state of Rondonia of an investigative report produced on the television program "Fantastico" that included a videotape showing legislators asking for money from Governor Ivo Cassol.

Brazilian journalists are usually able to report the news freely, including coverage of cases of corruption and irregularities involving the main public authorities. In 2005, the news media played an active role in uncovering the details of a scandal involving monthly payments to representatives of Congress by members of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration and high-ranking officials of his party. Investigations by Congress and the press revealed that some legislators received about $12,000 per month in exchange for voting in favor of bills sponsored by the government. Cases of intimidation and violence against journalists continue to take place, especially in the less developed northern and northeastern regions of the country. On July 1, four unidentified men riding two motorcycles shot and killed Jose Candido Amorim Pinto, a journalist in the city of Carpina. The journalist, who was also a city councilman, had been reporting on corrupt practices in the mayor's office on his program at a local community radio station. Thanks to inefficiencies in the justice system, crimes against journalists often go unpunished. A positive development in this regard in 2005 was the conviction of the murderers of TV Globo journalist Tim Lopes, who was tortured and killed in 2002 by drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro.

As South America's largest media market, Brazil boasts dynamic and diverse media able to provide a lively array of views, including investigative reporting published through privately owned newspapers, magazines, and online periodicals. However, despite the pluralism of Brazil's media, ownership is highly concentrated, particularly within the broadcast sector. Globo Organizations, a large media conglomerate, continues to enjoy a dominant position, maintaining ownership of Brazil's primary television network, radio stations, print media, and cable television distribution. Several new community radio stations requested broadcast licenses in 2005, but the process for approval currently takes several years to complete. Nonetheless, in February the government appointed a group of officials tasked with finding a way to expedite the licensing process. Access to the internet is generally unrestricted, but in July Reginaldo de Lima, who operated a website devoted to Nazism, was arrested in Sao Paulo City on charges of Nazi sympathy; he is still awaiting trial.