Society Fenaj and ABI repudiate attacks on journalists by Bolsonaro’s committee in Rome

Lack of bilateral meetings is a sign of Bolsonaro's lack of prestige on the international political scene (BBC Reproduction)

Arnoldo Santos and Marcela Leiros – from Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – Entities defending the rights of the press spoke out, on Monday, 1, against the attacks suffered by Brazilian journalists who were covering the stay of President Jair Bolsonaro, in Rome, during the G20 meeting. The National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) released a note of repudiation, and the Brazilian Press Association, an open letter, to the journalists of TV Globo, Uol and BBC who had equipment damaged by plainclothes security guards and Italian police, when Bolsonaro walked through the streets of Rome and spoke with supporters.

According to Fenaj, representative of the category in Brazil, at least three journalists were physically assaulted. The Federation also recalled that this Tuesday, 2, will be the World Day to Combat Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. “The aggressions, it seems, were committed by security agents of the president, but there may also have been an aggression by Italian police officers. The president also harassed a journalist”, reads an excerpt from the document.

According to the news site Uol, none of the police officers explained whether they were part of the Brazilian embassy, the Italian embassy, or private citizens. The reports state that there were both Italians and Brazilians in the group that was protecting the president.

In the open letter, ABI recalls that at the G20 meeting, Bolsonaro “was forced to stand in the corners, like those unwanted guests to whom nobody pays attention” and, as a reaction, acted “like a troglodyte, harassing and encouraging aggression to journalists who ask him routine questions”.

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Aggression against journalists in 2020

According to the Report on Violence against Journalists and Freedom of the Press in Brazil – 2020, prepared by Fenaj, last year was the most violent since the beginning of the 1990s, when the union entity started the historical series. There were 428 cases of attacks – including two murders – which represents an increase of 105.77% compared to 2019. According to the report, Bolsonaro was the one who attacked press professionals the most.

For Fenaj, the increase in violence is associated with the rise of Jair Bolsonaro to the Presidency of the Republic and the growth of Bolsonarism. “There has been an increase not only in general attacks, but attacks by this group that naturally attacks as a way to control information. They occur to discredit the press so that part of the population continues to be informed in the bolsonarist bubbles, places for spreading false and/or fraudulent information”, said Maria José Braga, president of Fenaj, member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and responsible for the data analysis.

The discrediting of the press was one of the most frequent violations: 152 cases, which represents 35.51% of the total of 428 records throughout 2020. Bolsonaro, once again, was the main aggressor. Of the 152 cases of discrediting the work of journalists, the President of the Republic was responsible for 142 episodes.

Alone, Jair Bolsonaro was responsible for 175 cases of violence against journalists (40.89% of the total of 428 cases): 145 generic and generalized attacks on media outlets and journalists, 26 cases of verbal attacks, one case of direct threats to journalists, one threat to Globo, and two attacks on Fenaj.

Check out Fenaj’s note in full:
The National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj), representative of the category in Brazil, comes out publicly to repudiate and condemn the violence against Brazilian professionals that occurred yesterday, October 31, in Rome. At least three journalists were physically assaulted while covering an activity of President Jair Bolsonaro in the Italian capital. The aggressions, it seems, were committed by security agents of the president, but there may also have been an aggression by Italian police officers. The president also harassed a journalist.

The journalists were following the Brazilian president’s participation in the G20 summit. At the end of the work, Jair Bolsonaro decided to take a walk in the region of the Brazilian embassy. When approached by the reporter Leonardo Monteiro, from G1, the president started the attacks, saying: “Is it Globo? Have you no shame in your face?”, a question that was repeated when the reporter tried to continue with the interview. The security guards started pushing the reporters and Leonardo Monteiro even told the president, who ignored the complaint.

UOL reporter Jamil Chade recorded part of the attacks, until himself was assaulted.  When he realized that he was filming the violence against the press professionals, a security guard pushed him, grabbed him by the arm, and took the cell phone from his hand. The security guard then threw the cell phone into a corner of the street.

Earlier, reporter Ana Estela de Souza Pinto, from Folha de S. Paulo, had been pushed and intimidated. An agent who would not identify himself (could be a security guard or an Italian policeman) pushed her and ordered her to leave the place.

Day against impunity

Fenaj also reminded that November 2, this Tuesday, will be the World Day to Combat Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. “Fenaj hopes that in light of the important ephemeris, all those responsible for these aggressions will be identified and punished. Impunity is fuel for violence”, the note concluded.

See ABI’s open letter in full:

Once again you embarrass Brazil, president.

Rejected by governments from all over the world, in each event of heads of state you show that the country was relegated to a pariah situation in the international community.

At the G-20 meeting this weekend, once again, you were forced to stay in the corners, like those unwanted guests to whom nobody pays any attention.

As a reaction, you act like a troglodyte, harassing and encouraging aggression from journalists who ask you common questions.

It is shameful.

At the opening ceremony of the G-20 event on Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi greeted the heads of state and government with a handshake, but clearly avoided it, a fact duly recorded by the Italian press. He did not want to be photographed next to them.

But things didn’t stop there.

Realizing that you were almost a party insider, you preferred not to appear for the official photo with the statesmen from all over the world. You felt the general rejection.

Nor did feel at ease to participate in the tour organized by the Italian government for the G20 leaders, who took pictures by throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain, a traditional tourist attraction in Rome.

But the embarrassment and shame were greater. They didn’t stop there.

Your security guards assaulted Brazilian journalists and stole their equipment in retaliation to simple questions about the reasons why you would not follow the common agenda of the other heads of state.

Reporters from TV Globo and “Folha de S. Paulo” newspaper and a columnist from Uol went to the police station to report the aggressions of your security guards. It was, perhaps, an unprecedented event.

Even so, you and the other members of your delegation, including representatives from Itamaraty, were incapable of giving a word of apology to the professionals who were only working. On the contrary, they continued to harass Brazilian journalists.

The ABI once again makes the record: with your aversion to democracy behavior and constant attacks on the press and the work of journalists, you encourage these aggressions. Thus, you also become responsible for them.

And, like a snowball, they only increase your isolation and the repudiation you receive from the international community.

Worse, the isolation is not only yours. It affects and shames the country you represent.
You are making Brazil a pariah in the international community, president.

Have some composure.

Paulo Jeronimo

President of the Brazilian Press Association