Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of speech and of the press are protected by the 1988 constitution, and Brazil’s media are both diverse and vigorous. Nevertheless, press freedom was affected by negative developments in 2006. Lower courts and electoral tribunals have issued rulings that continued to criminalize defamation, and the intensification of criminal activities by drug-trafficking gangs has imposed a number of new constraints on the press.
Articles 5 and 220 of the constitution guarantee freedom from “restriction” of thought, process, or medium; however, journalists faced some difficulties when reporting on the general elections of October 2006. Although the elections were free and fair, they were marked by several political scandals involving President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration and his political party, the Workers Party (PT). For example, two weeks before the election, federal police detained two PT members carrying about US$790,000. According to investigations, the money was going to be used to purchase a “dossier” with photographs and videos that linked two leaders of the main opposition party, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, to a corruption scheme. On October 31, three reporters of the country’s leading weekly newsmagazine, Veja, were threatened by federal police officers while the reporters were giving a deposition about the dossier scandal. Later, it was revealed that one of the telephones of the leading newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, in the press committee of the Chamber of Deputies was tapped during federal police investigations of the same scandal. Although the judiciary had authorized the tapping, the contacts of the reporters were exposed, violating individual privacy rights as well as the right of journalists to protect the anonymity of their sources. Also in late October, Correio do Estado editor Fausto Brites was found guilty of defamation, sentenced to 10 months in prison, and fined approximately US$875.
Civil and electoral judges have also limited the ability of journalists to report on the activities of politicians and candidates. On May 8, the civil court of Campo Grande granted an injunction to a candidate for the governorship of the Mato Grosso do Sul state against the newspaper Correio do Estado. On May 17, the regional electoral court in the northern state of Amapa ordered the weekly Folha do Amapa to remove its May 12 online edition, following a petition by the party of the state’s governor. The two cases involved the reporting of irregularities by public officials or candidates.
The rise of criminal organizations and the general intensification of violence have also affected the news media. In May, the criminal gang First Capital Command (PCC) organized a wave of attacks in the state of Sao Paulo, which included prison rebellions, bank robberies, and attacks on police stations and government buildings. According to some sources, more than 400 people died in the conflicts. On May 18, three heavily armed men invaded the daily Imprensa Livre in Sao Sebastiao, in the state of Sao Paulo. The assailants set the building on fire and hit five employees, telling them to stop reporting on the PCC. A few months later, in August, reporter Guilherme Portanova and technician Alexandre Calado, both from the country’s main television network, TV Globo, were abducted in Sao Paulo by PCC members. Calado was freed the next day with a recorded message demanding improved conditions for prisoners in Brazilian jails. The kidnappers announced they would kill Portanova if TV Globo did not broadcast the three-minute tape. The journalist was freed only after the network ran the criminals’ message. Among other cases of attacks on the press, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) reported the assassination of journalist Ajuricaba Monassa de Paula in the city of Guapirimim (Rio de Janeiro state) on July 24. According to RSF, he was beaten to death by town councillor Osvaldo Vivas after reporting on financial irregularities in the local government.
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 during the year. There are no restrictions on the internet, which is accessible to 17 percent of the population; Brazil has the largest number of internet users in South America.