Human Rights Defender Rivelino Zarpellon continues to face threats

Association

The Pastoral Commission of the Land of Pará, the Pará Society for Human Rights and the organisation Terra de Direitos (Land Rights) have denounced recent threats and intimidation against lawyer and human rights defender, Rivelino Zarpellon.

Rivelino is a well-known lawyer and activist in the southern region of Pará. He has advocated in many causes, including emblematic cases of corruption that led to the removal of judges of the judicial district of Xinguara. Currently, he is a legal adviser for the Union of Workers in Public Education of the State of Para and President of the Human Rights Commission of the Lawyer´s Association in Xingaura. Since 2017 he has been a victim of threats and surveillance, which started after he began working on issues related to the Pau D’Arco massacre on 24th May 2017, when ten land rights activists were killed by military and civil police officers. He relocated for a few months due to the risks,  but came back home in 2018 and the threats started again. According to reports, unknown men have been visiting the defender's family and friends and asking about his whereabouts. Rivelino also recorded the constant presence of a motorcyclist around his home.

There is concern that the increase in threats against Rivelino could be related to developments in the investigation into the Pau D’Arco massacre.  

Peaceful Assembly

From 23rd to 27th April 2018, more than 3,000 indigenous people gathered in Brasilia to demonstrate the "power unity, and resolve of the National Indigenous Movement". For four days, the protest marked this year's Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp), which was among the largest gatherings in the mobilisation's fifteen-year history. Unlike last year, the protests took place peacefully and without police repression.

"Brazil's indigenous peoples live in the most severe scenario of attacks upon their rights since the re-democratization of the country," affirms Terra Livre's statement. The statement further condemns the government's policy towards indigenous peoples, in particular, the state's dismantling and political manipulation of the very institutions meant to protect indigenous peoples.

Expression

Two fact-checking agencies, Lupa and Aos Fatos, have been targeted by virtual attacks due to a partnership with Facebook against the spread of false news. On 10th May 2018, Facebook and the two agencies announced the launch of the social network’s news verification programme in Brazil. The initiative was launched in December 2016 in the United States and has since been implemented in several countries, including Mexico, Colombia and India, in partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). IFCN certifies agencies based on criteria such as being non-partisan and transparent in their sources and funding.

It was reported that right-wing groups were accusing the agencies and journalists of "attempting to censor and acting with a leftist ideological bias".  

The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji as its acronym in Portuguese) issued a statement rejecting the attacks on journalists, which declared that:

"For Abraji, criticism of the work of the press is valid and necessary. By inciting, endorsing or practicing hate speech against journalists, however, those who disapprove of fact-checking initiatives promote exactly what they say they are fighting: impeding the free flow of information".

In a separate incident, on 4th April 2018 the Civil Police of the State of Goiás completed their investigation into the murder of radio journalist Jefferson Pureza, who was killed in the city of Edealina on 17th January 2018, as was also reported on the Monitor. The investigation concluded that Councillor José Eduardo Alves da Silva had ordered the crime and should be charged with homicide. According to the police, the principle motive for the killing was that the discovery that Pureza was involved in relations with the Councillor's ex-wife.

Police Officer Lourdes Barreto Silva explained that:

“He planned to kill the radio broadcaster early last year, but that did not materialize at the time. From the moment that he discovered the relationship [the councilman] reached out to two men and one minor, they took him to the two teenagers who were paid to carry out the murder”. 

According to documented cases from the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), at least 19 journalists and media professionals were attacked in various cities in Brazil between during the first days of April while covering former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's trial. The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the hostilities against journalists, declaring that:

"[T]he violence and acts that violate press freedom and the rights of Brazilian citizens to receive information".