With no South American country among the top 12, the Non-Government Organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF - the acronym for Reporters sans frontières) Monday lowered Brazil's freedom of the press rankings to 111th, thus placing it within the red zone.
In all of America's Costa Rica (5th) and Jamaica (7th) are the only two countries in the 12-member elite called white but depicted ocre on the NGO's website. Led by Norway and Finland, this white zone, which represents 7% of the countries compared to 8% last year, and has not been so small since the creation of this benchmark in 2013.
Uruguay is South American's best-placed country at 18th, followed by Suriname at 19th, but both already in the yellow portion.
RSF says journalism is at least partially blocked in more than 130 countries and suffers from serious impediments or obstacles in 73% of the 180 nations under study. Also, the covid-19 pandemic represented a form of opportunity for some states that restricted freedom of the press, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
At the bottom of the list, China (177), which continues to take censorship, surveillance and propaganda on the internet to unprecedented levels, remains stable in front of the worst totalitarian countries: Turkmenistan (178), North Korea (179) and Eritrea (180), according to RSF.
By region, Europe and America (North, Center and South) continue to be the most favourable continents for press freedom, although Latin America registers the greatest attrition this year (+ 2.5%). The worst-ranked Latin American countries are Cuba (171, unchanged), Honduras (151, -3) and Venezuela (148, -1).
Brazil (111) fell four notches from the previous classification and joined the ranks of those labelled red, or difficult.
”The insults, stigmatization and public humiliations orchestrated against journalists have become the trademark of President (Jair) Bolsonaro, his family and his close circle,” said RSF's report. which also criticizes both Bolsonaro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for promoting the unproven anti-covid effectiveness of drugs such as chloroquine.
RSF also regretted the tension under which journalists in Brazil are immersed following the series of press freedom violations that occurred in April 2021, including the murders of Weverton Rabelo Fróes and José Bonfim Pitangueiras in the northeastern state of Bahia in circumstances yet to be clarified.
Weverton Rabelo Fróes, 32, a radio show host and comedian nicknamed ‘Toninho Locutor’, was shot dead in Planaltino, a small city 300 kilometres west of the state capital, Salvador, on April 4. He was conducting a comedy program on Radio Antena 1. He was fired at from a motorcycle which fled the scene right afterwards.
José Bonfim Pitangueiras, 43, producer of TV Record, one of the main television channels in Brazil, was shot from a car on April 9 in Salvador.
Investigative reporting on corruption remains dangerous. Diego Santos, presenter of the television channel Norte Boa Vista (of the SBT group), in the state of Roraima, found on April 1 in his mailbox an envelope with two 380 pistol cartridges and a note that read: “For Diego Santos ”. In his current affairs program, Verdade no Ar, Santos regularly denounces political corruption and the activities of various criminal groups in Roraima. The journalist is convinced that this threatening message is related to his work.
South American countries were ranked as follows: Yellow - Uruguay 18, Suriname 19; Orange - Guyana 51, Chile 54, Argentina 69, Peru 91, Ecuador 96, Paraguay 100; Red - Bolivia 110, Brazil 111, Colombia 134 and Venezuela 148. There are no black countries in the region.