Although worldwide press freedom is celebrated on May 3, established by the UN in December 1993 by decision of the General Assembly, in compliance with article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Brazil since 1977 we celebrate this date today (7) . That was when around 3,000 journalists signed a manifesto for freedom of the press, in the midst of the dictatorship, during the government of General Ernesto Geisel. A year and a half earlier, in 1975, journalist Wladimir Herzog had been executed in one of the cells of the Department of Political and Social Order (DOPS) in São Paulo.
It was a courageous act of the category, because until then the censors practically lived in the newsrooms of the newspapers, literally erasing all criticism of the government. And this happened in the history of Brazil from the Old Republic, through the Vargas regime that established the infamous Department of Press and Propaganda (DIP).
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With a slave production regime, our country was prohibited from printing anything, until the arrival of the royal family in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, when the Royal Press, actually the Official Gazette, was opened, and since then censorship reigned. Anyone who reads the History of the Press in Brazil, by Nelson Werneck Sodré, will understand the work that any newspaper had to do with criticism of the government at the time of the imperial regime.
Arrests, torture and even death was what awaited the precursors of Brazilian journalism when they dared to criticize the rulers on duty.
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In the period of the military dictatorship of 1964, many newspapers of the big press, to denounce the censorship, published food recipes, in the place where some material had been censored. This was the case of Estadão, Jornal do Brasil, Tribuna de Imprensa.
Alternative newspapers that appeared in 1969, such as Pasquim, and later others such as Movimento, Coojornal, Em Tempo, and Versus were censored several times and their journalists arrested.
Currently, the category has suffered several attacks, the first being the invalidation of the diploma by Minister Gilmar Mendes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), to the gratuitous aggressions of the elected official in 2018, whose name I refuse to write.
The Judiciary has also served as a persecutor of press freedom and, through the Press Law created by the military dictatorship, has condemned several colleagues. An example is the journalist Elmar Bones, currently editor of Já Porto Alegre, who was sentenced to such heavy fines that his professional activity was practically unfeasible. Elmar, however, continues to resist.
For all this history it is of the utmost importance that we celebrate this National Press Freedom Day. Only with a free press can we guarantee a full democracy.
*This is an opinion article. The author’s view does not necessarily express the newspaper’s editorial line Brazil de facto.
Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul
Editing: Katia Marko