Brazil Urged to Make Crimes Against Journalists Federal Offenses

Senator Roberto Cavalcanti The IAPA (Inter American Press Association) called on Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to support a Brazilian senate proposal for a constitutional amendment that would automatically make crimes against journalists and against press freedom federal offenses.

The initiative by Paraíba state senator Roberto Cavalcanti of the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) is based on proposals and conclusions discussed at the forum “Shortcomings and Gaps in Justice: How to Prevent Impunity in Crimes Against the Press” that the IAPA held in mid-May in Rio de Janeiro together with the Brazilian Association of Investigative Reporting (ABRAJI) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).

The IAPA has worked for a similar act in Mexico to make such crimes federal offenses, and in Peru, for the creation of a special jurisdiction to deal with cases of journalists who are murdered in revenge for their reports, an initiative that has already won the backing of the country’s judicial branch.

Among the Rio forum’s other conclusions, relayed this week to president Lula and members of Brazil’s judicial and legislative branches, the following recommendations are made to the Brazilian government:

* That cases involving attempts upon the life and physical integrity of journalists because of their work be automatically transferred to federal jurisdiction and that by law such offenses be given priority on the trial calendar;

* That Federal Police and other SINASP (National Public Security Secretariat) agencies collaborate on the investigations, even though proceedings are handled in state courts;

* That task forces be appointed, or groups from the Attorney General’s Office named for each case of attempt upon the life and physical integrity of journalists because of their profession, supporting the Federal Police and/or Attorney General’s Office, including with staff from other localities;

* That threatened journalists be included in the Human Rights Defenders Protection Program under the Brazilian Presidency’s Department of Human Rights;

* That a legal aid fund be established to provide assistance in the defense of journalists prosecuted and threatened, or their families (in homicide cases), to be funded voluntarily by members of the press;

* That the parole system, which has permitted reduced sentences and the escape of persons convicted of crimes against journalists, be subject to review.

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