The Asociación Brasileña de Periodismo de Investigación (Abraji) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 by a group of working reporters to improve the quality of Brazilian journalism. The association focuses on the professional training of journalists, the defense of freedom of expression, and the right of access to public information. Its main activities include the organization of in-person and virtual courses; the organization of its International Investigative Journalism Conference; the production of news and practical guides for journalists; and projects that promote collaboration in journalism and monitor freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the country, combined with legal protection actions, litigation, and advocacy to promote the defense of these rights.
Leticia Kleim is a lawyer and graduate of the University of São Paulo’s Law School. She has worked for human rights organizations and is currently a legal assistant at Abraji, working on projects that use judicial data such as Ctrl+X and coordinating the monitoring of attacks against journalists and the legal protection program for journalists.
For 20 years, Abraji has been committed to the protection and defense of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and access to information, working to influence public policy to guarantee these rights and build a democratic society. To this end, it carries out projects that seek to expand access to information and facilitate the work of journalists, as well as to monitor violence against journalists and support those who become targets of attacks, including through lawsuits. In addition, Abraji has carried out journalist trainings and certifications, and combatted misinformation.
The polarization and hostility that have gripped Brazilian politics in recent years, threatening democratic institutions, also threaten freedom of expression in Brazil today. Misinformation, hate speech, and political persecution on social media have become major threats to freedom of expression in the country. Expressing oneself freely and having access to quality information of public interest is even more difficult for historically marginalized and excluded groups in society, such as women, LGBTQIA+ people, Black people, and indigenous communities.
This scenario is harmful to journalism, which currently faces a great challenge to its credibility, undermined by years of a state policy that targeted the press as its main enemy. Not only have the public powers become major threats to press professionals, but citizens and political sympathizers have also targeted communicators, journalists, and the media throughout the country. So today they face great insecurity in carrying out their work, especially those who cover issues related to politics, socio-environmental rights, and other issues of great social importance.
Brazil has had a Law on Access to Information for more than 10 years. Despite this, we believe there is room for improving the full exercise of this right. Although there has been progress in the transparency of various government bodies, authorities are still resistant to making more sensitive information accessible to the public. A recent study by Abraji investigated requests of access to information from the military police of the 26 states and the federal district and found difficulty in accessing certain information and inconsistent responses. The lack of a standard on compliance with the duties of transparency established in the law and in the constitution are unfortunately apparent in this country of continental influence.
The trends in threats to freedom of expression and of the press that we have experienced in Brazil can help us understand how these phenomena are progressing in the region. One example is the stigmatizing speeches that affect journalism’s credibility and lead toward more serious and worrisome attacks. Journalism’s place in the crossfire, be it in the more metaphorical political arena or literally during demonstrations and protests, has also been seen very clearly in Brazil, as in other countries in the region. At the same time, recent political change, at least in the Brazilian executive branch, brings the possibility of becoming an example of how to combat these challenges and build alternatives in our countries.
Observing the regional context helps us to better understand what we are experiencing in our countries. Similarly, sharing our national experiences and building bridges with organizations in other countries in the region benefits our organizations and freedom of expression in our countries. We intend to contribute to Voces del Sur by amplifying its’ members voices with our audiences and contributing our findings and learning to the collective so that we can continue to monitor the democracies in our region.
Published on June 27, 2023.