Brazil: A hostile place for journalists and activists with three killed in January

Expression

According to reports, on 16th January 2018 journalist Ueliton Brizon was shot dead while riding his motorcycle with his wife in the Santo Antônio district of Cacoal, Rondônia. Brizon owned the online news portal Jornal de Rondônia and his writing focused on political corruption.

A day later, radio journalist Jefferson Pureza Lopes was shot three times in the head while inside his house in Edealina, Goias. Lopes hosted the programme 'A Voz do Povo' on radio Beira Rio FM in which he denounced alleged irregularities in the public administration and criticised municipal and regional authorities. According to his friends' reports to the press, Lopes had been receiving threats connected to his work for at least two years.

In response to the killings, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement urging "the Brazilian authorities to act promptly and diligently to determine the motives for the murders and to identify and punish the perpetrators". 

Previously, on 28th December 2017 journalist Gabriel Barbosa da Silva of Verbo Online was attacked while driving home. According to reports, an assailant fired at least three shots, but missed. Da Silva believes that this attack is linked to his reports on a controversial garbage collection tax.

In early December 2017, Brazil's government established a committee - Consultative Council on Internet and Elections - to monitor and potentially block the release of fake news in the context of the 2018 presidential election. The Council will operate under the auspices of the Superior Electoral Court. Civil society organisations have expressed concern over the bill and the creation of the Council, stating that it is an "inadequate measure and poses serious risks to users' freedom of expression". In addition, there is concern over how the term 'fake news' is being defined by the Council and how it will determine what constitutes 'fake news'.

Association

On 24th January 2018, Márcio Matos, leader of Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto (Landless Workers' Movement) in the state of Bahia, was shot dead inside his house. The motive behind the killing remains unknown but it seems it could be connected to his activism. Matos worked as a secretary in the local government of Itaeté and had been an active and prominent member of the Movement. 

Comitê Brasileiro de Defensoras e Defensores de Direitos Humanos (Brazilian Committee for Human Rights Defenders) and its member organisations have continuously alerted the public and the international community about the increasing violence and attacks against human right defenders in Brazil, as reported in previous updates on the Monitor. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 11th January 2018, a citizen-led protest over the increase in public transportation fares in Sao Paulo ended in clashes with the police. There were no reports of detained protesters. However, a week later, another protest took place during which police dispersed the protesters, and at least four people were reportedly arrested. 

In a separate incident, a Brazilian appeals court upheld a corruption conviction against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The unanimous decision endangers da Silva's ability to run in the 2018 election. After the court's decision was made, several thousands of his supporters gathered in different cities in Brazil, but no major incidents were reported.