Two land activists murdered in Brazil

Association

On 8th December 2018, land activists José Bernardo da Silva and Rodrigo Celestino members of Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Rural Workers Movement, MST) were brutally murdered by masked and heavily armed assailants. According to reports, the two activists were eating dinner at the camp of the MST in Paraíba state when four hooded individuals entered the premises and killed them. MST activists fight for land distribution in Brazil. 

The MST-PB issued a public statement demanding justice and punishment for those responsible for the attack and reaffirmed they will continue their fight in defence of land rights. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 13th December 2018, members of Greenpeace staged a protest outside the headquarters of the energy regulator agency building in down town Rio de Janeiro. Dressed with the orange uniforms of the workers from the state oil company Petrobras, the activists gathered to reject plans to auction off oil blocks in the Amazon region, which is near a protected reserve and indigenous territories. The organisation fears that a potential oil spill, would contaminate streams, trees and animals and cause irreversible damage to the region and local communities. 

On 10th December 2018, truckers in Brazil partially blocked the main highway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The workers rejected a Supreme Court decision that prevents the government from fining transport companies that do not comply with minimum freight rates. In July 2018, a decreed was approved by the lower house of Congress setting minimum prices for truck freight. This a measure was "fiercely opposed by farm and industrial lobbies which said it would raise shipping prices". 

Expression

On 28th October 2018, after one of the most polarised campaigns in Brazil’s recent history, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right leader of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), was elected as Brazil’s president. In his first speech after the official announcement of his victory Bolsonaro said his success had been achieved “despite the big media that criticise me and insult me.”

The campaign was characterised by a hostile environment for critical journalists. In October 2018, it was reported that Bolsonaro supporters insulted and attacked a journalist from the Folha de São Paulo news outlet and journalists working with the O Povo newspaper and TV Verdes Mares while they were trying to cover Bolsonaro's supporters celebration. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the situation and said: 

“The hate speech and sweeping attacks on the press that have marked Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the presidential election do not bode well for the new era beginning in Brazil.” 

In addition, several international civil society organisations denounced the attacks, threats and intimidation against journalists covering the election campaign, adding that the attacks against women journalists, included online sexual harassment and threats of sexual violence. 

There are fears that a new raft of reforms could usher in further restrictions on civil society.