On 8 January, groups of supporters of Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro, whose term ended on December 31 2022, stormed the National Congress, the Planalto Palace and the Federal Supreme Court in Brasilia in an anti-democratic coup attempt. At least eleven journalists were attacked while trying to cover the events, and some of them reported being threatened with firearms.
These facts, far from surprising, are intimately related to the climate fostered by the Bolsonaro administration, who was at the forefront of enabling aggression against media workers in Brazil during his time in office. Those attacks, emanating from the country's main authority, created the conditions for violence to be exercised by his followers as well, without fear of reprisals.
In a region that has suffered brutal dictatorships and coups d'état over decades, which have claimed the lives of thousands of people across the continent, events such as storming government institutions raise alarm bells. Anti-democratic governments seek to avoid scrutiny and accountability to survive, which is why journalists and media workers have always been victims of violence in times of democratic rupture.
A statement published by IFJ affiliate FENAJ on 8 January said: "Brazilian journalists, in the exercise of their professional work, have been victims of intimidation and aggression by followers and sympathisers of this violent and anti-democratic political group. There have been hundreds of cases registered in recent years, and almost a dozen in the first week of this year alone.”
The union condemned the violence in the strongest terms and expressed its solidarity with journalists who had been attacked or assaulted while protecting citizens’ right to know. “We demand investigations and the severe punishment of those responsible for this serious attack on Brazilian democracy, including financiers and producers. We also warn of the need for the security forces to combat the restriction of the work of journalists, recurrent victims of the wave of violence of the ‘Bolsonarist hordes’. We stand in solidarity with media crews that have been attacked and we place the union structures at the disposal of the guild".
The IFJ condemns the aggressions suffered by colleagues who were carrying out their work and rejects the attempted coup by groups that stormed and vandalised the National Congress, the Planalto Palace and the Federal Supreme Court. After the outbreak of violence, journalism, as one of the key pillars of democracy, will continue to face attacks. The recent history of violence suggests hard times for media workers, and measures must be taken to protect their work and their lives. We express our solidarity with our colleagues at FENAJ and all journalists in Brazil