Cecília Olliveira, 12. März 2022
It was the morning of the last Friday of February when TV SBT reporter Branca Andrade was reporting a strike of transport workers that took place in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro, an area controlled by militias - groups mostly composed of armed law enforcement officers who do illegal work. She was threatened live on camera by unidentified men who tried to stop the recording.
And she was not the only one. During a 10-day period, three journalists were attacked in Brazil. During a law enforcement demonstration in the state of Minas Gerais, Globo network reporter André Junqueira and video journalist Alexandre Costa were chased away by protesters. The journalists and the broadcaster were called names, and the scene was recorded and published by the protesters themselves, who celebrated their acts with supporters in WhatsApp groups.
A few days later, journalists Renato Biazzi and Ronaldo Souza, who also work for TV Globo, were assaulted by an unidentified man while reporting in São Paulo. The man, who was walking a dog on a chain, interrupted the journalists' work by screaming curses, and attacked them with the chain. Ronaldo de Souza suffered a hand injury and had to undergo reconstruction surgery.
These are not isolated cases. Society has been encouraged by the president of Brazil and his supporters to act this way. Even before taking office, Jair Bolsonaro used to instigate hostile attitudes against the press. During his inauguration, event organizers set up a number of obstacles to journalists' work, limiting their mobility between the many public buildings in Brasilia.
Throughout his first year in office, Bolsonaro called for a boycott of media outlets that offered a critical perspective of his administration. Support networks linked to his family also regularly coordinate attacks against journalists and spread lies about them.
The result is that being a journalist in Brazil is increasingly difficult - especially if you are a woman. An assessment by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) has shown that last year Brazil recorded a 79% increase in the number of attacks either against women journalists or otherwise gender-based. Overall there were 119 such incidents - which amounts to an average of one every three days.
More than half (52%) of the identifiable perpetrators of these attacks were public officials.
People who most often attacked women journalists were:
According to Abraji, 95% of the identifiable perpetrators of the violent incidents were men; 68% of the attacks started online and 60% of the cases involved political coverage.
Words most used to insult women journalists have gendered undertones, such as "slut", "whore", "gossiper", as well as references to their supposed ideological biases, such as "militant", "leftist" and "communist".
The stance of Abraji, the entity of which I am a director, is that appeals to gender and sexuality are not incidental: in societies where conservative values are prevalent, this kind of attack aims to undermine the credibility of professional journalism and divert attention from the content of the news.
Undermining journalism undermines democracy. And we will resist that.