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FREE EXPRESSION IN BRAZIL NEEDS PROTECTION, ARTICLE 19 FINDS

Free expression in Brazil is "in need of immediate protection and action," an ARTICLE 19 mission to the country has found.

Although ARTICLE 19 identified some good practices by the government and a vibrant civil society during its week-long mission in August, it was "extremely concerned by the situation of freedom of expression in Brazil."

Media laws date back to the 1960s when the country was under a military dictatorship - making them both repressive and technologically outdated. Access to information is guaranteed under the 1988 Constitution, but a federal law has yet to be passed because there are no regulations detailing procedures and applicable deadlines.

In independent broadcasting, few regulatory policies are in place, resulting in media ownership being highly concentrated - according to ARTICLE 19, six private television networks hold 92 percent of the TV audience. The federal government says it will set up a public TV channel by the end of this year, but there is no overall public service broadcasting system. A community broadcaster, meanwhile, must wait an average of three and a half years to get a license because of a lengthy, ineffective and punitive process.

A high number of civil defamation cases has led to self-censorship in Brazilian newsrooms, with journalists trying to prevent costly legal processes. Local lawyers and journalists estimate that there is currently one civil lawsuit per journalist working for the five major communication groups in the country.

As well, violence against journalists is still a problem, especially in the northern areas, but is underestimated and not documented consistently.

ARTICLE 19 recommends a series of actions, including adopting a proper legal framework and an access to information regime, creating a public broadcasting system, supporting community broadcasting and properly investigating instances of violence.

Read the full report here:
- English: http://tinyurl.com/yruezk
- Portuguese: http://tinyurl.com/2hffwt
(4 September 2007)

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