Indigenous communities in Brazil under attack
Violence erupts in land conflict
Between 4th and 7th August, on the eve of the Amazon Summit activities, four indigenous people from the Tembé ethnic group were shot in Tomé-Açu, in northeastern Pará, allegedly by private security guards from the company Brasil Bio Fuels (BBF). When the shooting happened, the group was heading to the municipality of Tomé-Açu to investigate allegations of violations against local communities involved in a land dispute.
The violent land conflict in the region began three years ago when BBF initiated oil palm production, used as a raw material for biodiesel in aviation. The Tembé people have been raising concerns about human rights violations and the absence of prior, free and informed consultation in BBF's oil palm plantation project.
As reported by Virgínia Berriel of Repórter Brasil, a representative of the Single Workers’ Central (Central Única dos Trabalhadores, CUT) and an advisor to the National Council of Human Rights (Conselho Nacional dos Direitos Humanos, CNDH) stated, "They did this in retaliation for our visit to listen to the indigenous people because of the impacts of oil palm cultivation in the region."
The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil – APIB) issued a public statement to bring attention to the ongoing attacks against the indigenous and Afro-Descendant communities in the region.
They have highlighted that these attacks are not isolated instances but are part of a larger issue of human rights and environmental violations in the area. There are two indigenous lands and six Quilombola communities (communities of Afro-Descendants), surrounded by thousands of oil palm trees. These conflicts are linked to decades of invasions and land grabbing of territories whose ancestral occupation dates back at least 200 years.
Alessandra Korap received the Goldman Environmental Prize
On 24th April, Alessandra Korap Munduruku was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her relentless resistance to illegal mining activities within the Munduruku Indigenous Territory. She played a crucial role in mobilising the local community to address the mining applications submitted by British mining company Anglo American in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. As a result of her efforts, in May 2021, the company made a public commitment to withdraw research applications for mining operations inside Indigenous territories, including the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, which is home to over 400,000 acres of rainforest.
The decision protects a critically threatened area of the Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest and a globally significant carbon sink—from further mining and deforestation. Alessandra was one of the six winners of the 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize, also known as the “Green Nobel Prize.”
This Indigenous land defender stood against a mining giant trying to exploit her people’s land in the Amazon — and won.— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 19, 2023
Alessandra Korap Munduruku is now being recognized for her work as an environmental protector in Brazil, where protecting the land can be deadly. pic.twitter.com/d667M4hXtV
Indigenous rally against land demarcation limits
On 30th May 2023, Brazil's Chamber of Deputies approved Bill 490/2007 with 283 votes in favour and 155 against. The bill introduces a timeline for establishing indigenous territories, reduces the size of indigenous lands and opens them to mining and infrastructure projects. The indigenous movement came out strongly against this bill in the previous months.
According to Amazon Watch, the legislation contravenes the Brazilian Federal Constitution and international norms, including the International Labour Organization Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as there was no prior consultation before its passage.
Additionally, this new rule states that indigenous land can only be demarcated if its occupants were on the land before or on the date of the Constitution's enactment on 5th October 1988.
Upon its passing, there was a nationwide wave of Indigenous and environmental protests and international solidarity. On 31st May, indigenous groups protested by closing the Bandeirantes highway in Sao Paulo, setting tyres on fire and placing barriers to block traffic on the highway in the capital’s direction.
In June, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) and its seven regional organisations mobilised during Environment Week (5th-9th June) with the slogan: "For climate justice, for the future of the planet, for indigenous lives, for democracy, for native/ancestral rights, for the end of genocide, for the right to life, for demarcation now: No to the time frame!”
As the press reported, "The time frame for us is a step backwards and a denial of our rights. All relatives, territories, villages and towns must remain mobilised in this decisive moment for indigenous peoples. We have always made our struggle”, said Val Eloy, executive coordinator of APIB for the Terena Council.
The text will now be sent to the Senate, where the majority of members are conservative and support the reduction of Indigenous territories. If the Senate approves the bill, it will be sent to President Lula for consideration. The President has the power to veto the bill, but Congress can override his veto if they choose to do so.
Marcha das Margaridas
On 15th and 16th August, the seventh edition of the Marcha das Margaridas took place in Brasilia with 100,000 women from all over the country. Also, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took part in the closing ceremony.
Since 2000, organised women have participated in the Marcha das Margaridas every four years, which continues the legacy of Margarida Alves, the leader of the Rural Workers Union of Alagoa Grande. She fought for the rights of rural workers and was assassinated on the orders of landowners in 1983.
The National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores Rurais Agricultores e Agricultoras Familiares, CONTAG) and 16 partner organisations coordinated the event. This year’s march had the slogan “For the Reconstruction of Brazil and for the Good Life.”
Hoje (15) e amanhã (16), milhares de mulheres se mobilizam para a Marcha das Margaridas, em Brasília, em luta por vida digna, direito à terra e direitos trabalhistas para as trabalhadoras e trabalhadores rurais. Segue o fio🧶 #MarchaDasMargaridas #EducaRB pic.twitter.com/B7LkdVLRst— Repórter Brasil (@reporterb) August 15, 2023
30 years in prison for the first defendants in the Brazilian riot
As reported previously by the Monitor, on 8th January 2023, a week after President Lula took office, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters violently attacked the state-federal buildings in Brasília. The Federal Police arrested 2,151 people for vandalism of federal buildings. Among those arrested, 919 were accused of public incitement to criminal activity and criminal association. Of these, 219 were charged with more serious crimes, such as disregarding the rule of law and attempted coup d’état.
On 8th August, the Prosecutor's Office requested the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the first 40 individuals accused of participating in the attempted coup d'état. In a document submitted to the Supreme Court that presides over these proceedings, the Prosecutor’s Office asserts that it has substantiated the "materiality" and the "authorship" of at least five crimes.
The Supreme Court has received complaints against 1,290 individuals, most of whom were directly involved in the violent events that occurred on 8th January. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the demonstrators attempted to establish an authoritarian regime in place of a legitimately elected government.
Sexual violence is a daily threat faced by women and LGBTQIA+ journalists while at work
According to Abraji, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism, being a journalist in politically polarised contexts often involves taking more significant risks, especially for women and LGBTQIA+ persons.
In 2022, the monitoring of general attacks and gender-based violence against the press, conducted by Abraji in collaboration with the Latin American network Voices of the South (Voces del Sur, VdS), documented 557 cases of attacks against media professionals, with 26% of these incidents involving some form of gender-based violence. Among this category, 5% were classified as episodes of sexual violence, with 57.1% of them occurring online.
As reported, there were seven instances of sexual violence in the form of rape threats and harassment, both online and offline, against journalists in 2022. These incidents occurred while the journalists were carrying out their duties.
A research study released by Abraji in December 2022 shed light on misogynistic trends in the treatment of women journalists in the aftermath of the presidential elections. The data unveiled a startling 300% surge in the use of derogatory terms such as "cow," "bitch" and "slut" aimed at them on Twitter. This increase was in stark contrast to the 40 days preceding the commencement of the election campaign on 16th August 2022.
Journalism organisations repudiate Deputy's attempt to silence the media
Press freedom and journalism organisations denounced the lawsuits filed by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, in an attempt to silence the press. The deputy requested the Brasília courts to urgently strike down the report "Arthur Lira's ex-wife accuses him of sexual violence", published by Agência Pública on 21st June 2023, and the ICL Notícias programme of 6th June 2023, broadcast by TVT and also on YouTube. The reports feature interviews with Lira's ex-wife, who accused him of sexual violence and other crimes.
In their statement, the organisations assert that it is unacceptable for the President of the Chamber of Deputies, one of the branches responsible for upholding constitutional principles, to employ the judiciary as a means to curtail journalistic content that he finds unfavourable.
The organisations express their solidarity with Agência Pública, ICL Notícias, and their respective professionals. They also hope that the President of the Chamber of Deputies comprehends the detrimental implications of his attempt to censor and restrict press freedom and subsequently withdraws the lawsuits.
Abraji and press freedom organisations repudiate judicial censorship against The Intercept
On 30th May, The Intercept and Nayara Felizardo, the author of the series of reports titled “In the name of the parents”, received a notification regarding the decision by the judge of the 14th Civil Court of the Capital District of the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice. The judge ordered the removal of all videos and texts related to the investigative journalism series, failing which they would face the imposition of a daily fine.
Several journalism advocacy organisations have expressed their concern and disapproval of the judge's decision regarding the report discussing injustices committed against mothers and children in the name of the Parental Alienation Law. The statement released by these organisations highlights that the report was based on court documents that are under judicial secrecy, which goes against the constitutional guarantees of the freedom of the press and the protection of the confidentiality of sources.
A #CENSURACAIU. Parte da série sobre a Lei de Alienação Parental está no ar novamente. Uma decisão da justiça nos obrigou a retirar as reportagens e o documentário do site. Porém, a Justiça do Rio decidiu que o documentário deve permanecer censurado. https://t.co/ocbYK2aIL4 pic.twitter.com/Fswrn2neXz— Intercept Brasil (@TheInterceptBr) July 18, 2023