Score: 58.67 // Status: Problematic

92 – Brazil

Former president Jair Bolsonaro's attacks against the press lasted until the last day of his term, at the end of 2022. The new government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva brought the country back to a climate of institutional stability in this area. But structural violence against journalists, a media landscape marked by a strong concentration in the private sector and the effects of disinformation continue to pose challenges to freedom of the press in the country.

The Brazilian media landscape is marked by a high concentration in the private sector, which translates into an almost incestuous relationship between political, economic and religious powers. Ten large corporate groups, owned by ten families, share the market, the five largest being Globo, Record, SBT, Bandeirantes and Folha. The editorial independence of regional and local media is seriously compromised by government advertising, and public media suffered serious editorial interference during the Bolsonaro government.

The 1988 Federal Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press in the country and, in general, the Brazilian legislative system is very favourable to the free exercise of journalism. The broadcasting and telecommunications law, however, is old, permissive and ineffective. Reporters and media are also frequently targets of abusive lawsuits by politicians and businesspeople, who use their influence to intimidate the press.

The work of the Brazilian press became especially complex during the government of Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022). The president made frequent attacks on the press, mobilizing armies of supporters on social media. His well-coordinated strategy of attacks aimed at discrediting the Media, labelled as enemies of the State, continues to this day, with the aim of keeping his supporters in disbelief regarding the allegations of corruption that weigh on him and his family, regarding the results of the elections that brought Lula to power and the actions of the new government. Although he intends to reestablish the democratic principles of handling the press, President Lula faces constant challenges from supporters of former President Bolsonaro and far-right parties, who continue to try to destabilize the government.

Brazil remains polarized, and attacks against the press, freely expressed on social media, paved the way for recurrent practices of physical aggression against journalists, especially in the 2022 elections and during the invasion of Praça dos Três Poderes, in Brasília, on the 8th. January 2023.

Large media groups have been trying to reinvent their business models in the face of the global crisis that the sector is experiencing, caused by the arrival of digital platforms. These groups also diversify their investments into many other sectors, which increases the risk of conflict of interest and undermines the already eroded editorial independence. The local press, in turn, is increasingly fragile, and independent digital media face problems of economic viability.

In the last decade, at least 30 journalists were murdered in Brazil, the second most dangerous country in the region for press professionals during this period. Bloggers, broadcasters and independent journalists who work in small and medium-sized municipalities and who cover corruption and local politics are the most vulnerable. Online harassment and violence against journalists, especially women, continues to rise. In 2022, at least three murders are directly related to journalism, including that of British journalist Dom Phillips, killed in the Amazon during an investigation into environmental crimes committed on indigenous lands.