Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 12
Political Influences: 16
Economic Pressures: 12
Total Score: 40
Life Expectancy: 71
Religious Groups: Roman Catholic (80 percent), other (20 percent)
Ethnic Groups: White (55 percent), mixed (38 percent), black (6 percent), other (1 percent)
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and authorities generally respect these rights in practice. In December, the Brazilian National Congress passed an amendment to the constitution that places under federal jurisdiction crimes against human rights, which can include the murder of journalists. In the past, many crimes against journalists have gone unpunished, owing partly to inefficiencies in the justice system at the state level. In some cases, police implicated in serious acts of violence against journalists have been acquitted despite compelling evidence of their complicity. An increase in defamation lawsuits, along with a growing trend of plaintiffs seeking high damage awards, huge fines for libel, and possible jail sentences have led to calls by working journalists for an updated press law.
International press advocacy organizations say that the country, particularly in the vast tracts of rural lands, is one of the most dangerous places in the hemisphere to practice the reporting trade. In 2004, three journalists were killed, and reporters remain virtually bereft of protection from violence, especially when investigating public corruption and the booming narcotics trade. The print media in particular have played a central role in exposing official corruption. In May, President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva attempted to revoke the visa of New York Times journalist William Larry Rohter Jr. after the American produced a thinly sourced report accusing the Brazilian leader of drunkenness. Da Silva withdrew his request for the revocation of Rohter's visa after a barrage of media and other public criticism and a judicial order delaying the journalist's expulsion from the country. In May, a proposal, which was floated by the government-allied National Federation of Journalists, sought to regulate who could work as a journalist. However, following heated criticism from free speech advocates and even members of da Silva's own party, the measure was shelved.
The independent print and broadcast media, which include privately held newspapers, magazines, and a growing number of online electronic publications, provide a lively array of views, including investigative reporting, without restriction. Major media include some 79 newspapers, 75 radio stations, 71 news Web sites, 40 magazines, 20 national television stations, and 16 news agencies, only a fraction of which are government owned. Despite the pluralism of Brazil's media, ownership is highly concentrated, with companies such as the Globo network dominating both print and broadcast outlets. In recent years, however, TV Globo's near monopoly over the broadcast media has been challenged by its rival, Sistema Brasiliero de Televisao. The government retains control of broadcast licensing; as a result, politicians frequently receive licenses and former members of the congressional committees providing oversight own many broadcast and print media.
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