World Association of News Publishers

Soft censorship, a serious threat to media independence and press freedom in Brazil

Soft censorship, a serious threat to media independence and press freedom in Brazil

Paris – 2019-08-12

In a joint letter to President Jair Bolsonaro, Fernando de Yarza, President of WAN-IFRA, and Warren Fernandez, President of the World Editors Forum, expressed today their deep concern at recent actions targeting journalists and news media, specifically provisional measure 892 that amends the Brazilian Companies Act of 1976 and which seriously jeopardizes the ongoing ability of a free press to hold power to account in Brazil.

The decree suspends the obligation of publicly traded companies to publish their corporate balance sheets in media with national circulation and instead establishes that they only be published on official digital websites, including that of the Brazilian Stock Exchange. Despite Presdident Bolsonaro's assertion to the contrary, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum see this action as a deliberate form of economic reprisal against media which – in the President's own words – will suffer “retribution” for their coverage of his presidency and his election campaign.

The two organisations view this as an act of soft censorship, a global phenomenon increasingly documented by WAN-IFRA and that, amongst other tactics, deliberately channels economic pressures and forms of intimidation levied by the State or its official organs and that are aimed at silencing critical reporting and rewarding positive coverage.

Especially devastating in times of economic instability, governments around the world are increasingly aware that soft censorship does not generate the international outcry evoked by the killing of journalists or shuttering of publications. Although it may be less visible, soft censorship can be equally insidious and must be recognized for the very serious threat to media independence and press freedom it is.

Furthermore, in addition to going against the spirit of transparency of information required by an informed society, and jeopardizing the right of Brazilian citizens to a free and independent media that can report fairly and accurately on the activities of government, political parties and other institutions or other civic matters, President Bolsonaro's provisional measure violates part of Law 13,818, recently approved by the House and Senate and sanctioned by yourself in April 2019.


WAN-IFRA is the World Association of News Publishers. Its mission is to protect the rights of journalists across the world to operate free media, and provide its members with professional services to help their business prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in open societies. With formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, it derives its authority from its global network of leading news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 80 national association members representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

The World Editors Forum (WEF) was established more than 20 years ago as an organ of WAN-IFRA. WEF is the leading network for print and digital editors of newspapers and news organisations around the world. It is built on a commitment to defend press freedom and promote editorial excellence.

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