Freedom of Expression

Press Release R 38/16

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Journalist in Brazil and Urges the State to Adequate the Protection Mechanism to Media Worker’s Needs

March 17, 2016

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the March 10 murder of radio announcer João Valdecir de Borba in the municipality of São Jorge do Oeste, State of Paraná, Brazil. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern and urges Brazilian authorities to act promptly and diligently to establish the motives for the murder and to identify and punish the perpetrators.

According to the information available, Borba was hosting his program on air at Rádio Difusora 1490 AM when he went to the door and was shot in the abdomen by two men. Borba was taken to a hospital, where he died. Colleagues said that he had stopped covering political news at their request five months earlier, working instead on musical programs, although the reason for this had not been specified publicly.
This is the fifth murder of a journalist in the Americas in 2016. According to information compiled by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, there were eleven other murders in Brazil last year, which made 2015 one of the worst years of the previous decade for the practice of journalism in that country, in which violence against journalists, including murder, escalated in some regions. 
In August of 2015, journalist Gleydson Carvalho was also murdered while on the air at Rádio Liberdade FM 90.3 in the town of Camocim, State of Ceará. Carvalho spoke out against local political corruption on his program, and had reportedly received death threats.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has reiterated that states have an obligation to adopt measures to prevent violence against journalists and media workers. This obligation is particularly important in countries in which there is a risk of these incidents taking place and in specific situations in which authorities know or should know that there is a real and immediate risk of such crimes being committed.

The State of Brazil has a "protection program for human right defenders" since 2004, and in 2012 it was extended to journalists and media workers. Nevertheless, this mechanism has not been adequate for the needs of journalists nor was it sufficiently disseminated  amongst media workers, something which subtracted effectiveness in offering guarantees to those who are threatened by their journalistic activity. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State to strengthen the protection mechanisms for communicators in all the regions in Brazil and to provide a budget for its functioning.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential that the State analyze the hypothesis which states that the cause of this crime is linked to the journalist’s exercise of his freedom of expression, and therefore, identify, prosecute and sanction those responsible, and adopt fair measures of reparation for the victim’s family. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists in the need to create special investigative bodies and protocols, as well as to guarantee the effective inclusion of those who are being threatened because of their work in journalism in protection mechanisms designed to ensure their safety.
Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that "[t]he murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.

R 38/16