WASHINGTON / GENEVA (24 June 2016) – United Nations and Inter-American Commission experts on freedom of expression today expressed their concern at measures taken by the interim Federal Government in Brazil intervening in the administration of the Brazilian Public Broadcaster (EBC) and the converting the National Controller’s Office (CGU) into a new Ministry of Transparency, Monitoring and Oversight.
“The interference with the EBC’s management and the conversion of the CGU into a Ministry are negative steps for a country known for its solid commitment to freedom of opinion and expression,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the Inter-American Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Edison Lanza.
“Brazil is undergoing a critical period and should ensure it preserves the progress it has made in the promotion of freedom of expression and access to public information over the last two decades,” the experts said.
On 17 May, the interim President of Brazil replaced the EBC’s chief executive officer, who was just starting his four years mandate. He was later reinstated on appeal by a justice of the Supreme Court on 2 June. The newly appointed administration suspended the contracts of journalists because of an alleged “political bias” against the new Government and cancelled some TV programs.
“We take note of concerns expressed by the Government on the economic situation of the EBC. However, those concerns do not justify its interference in the national public broadcaster’s management and, in particular, in its journalistic work. We thus welcome the decision of Justice Dias Toffoli reinstating the EBC director,” said UN Special Rapporteur Kaye.
“International standards require States to ensure that public broadcasting services operate in an independent manner. This means fundamentally guaranteeing their administrative autonomy and editorial freedom,” continued the Inter-American expert Edison Lanza.
“The attempt to develop an alternative national public broadcaster with an independent status was in fact a laudable effort to promote pluralism in Brazil, particularly considering the problems of concentration of media ownership in the country,” Mr. Lanza said, while expressing further concern at recent suggestions by some Brazilian authorities to close down the EBC.
The freedom of expression experts also drew attention to the absorption of the CGU by the recently created Ministry of Transparency.
“In recent years, the main progresses made in Brazil in the promotion of the right to information in Brazil greatly benefited from the CGU’s work,” Mr. Lanza noted recalling that the institution helped to advance the 2011 Law on Access to Information.
“Because of its direct link to the President’s Office, the CGU was able to offer an appeal opportunity for those whose access to information was denied by Ministries or other federal institutions. It is important to secure this authority in the new institutional arrangements,” he said.
“Organisations providing access to information and promoting accountability should be shielded from political interference. Any change in the functioning of the former CGU should be aimed at making it more autonomous and independent from determinations from the Executive office,” said Mr. Kaye, who also expressed concern regarding reports that the new Minister of Transparency suggested that staff unhappy with the new Government should leave the organization.
The two human rights experts initiated a dialogue with the Brazilian Government on the compatibility of the measures taken by the authorities with international standards for the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
Mr. Edison Lanza (Uruguay) was appointed as Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in July 2014 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defence of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system. For more information, log on to: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/expression/mandate/Rapporteur.asp