Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that it is “appalled” by threats and insults Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made against a major national media outlet in a video tirade on social media early Wednesday.
The outburst, which included a threat to cancel TV Globo’s broadcast license, followed Globo’s report that a witness cited Bolsonaro’s name in the ongoing investigation of the murder of a high-profile human rights activist and city councilwoman.
Bolsonaro accused the outlet of “betraying Brazil” in a Facebook Live video streamed in the early hours of Wednesday during an official visit to Saudi Arabia. He said that the outlet could be blocked from receiving public funds through ads.
“You are scumbags! Scoundrels! You are not patriots!,” an irate Bolsonaro said in the 23-minute video in which he called Globo’s report “rotten.” He also said: “There will be no public money for you!”
Globo repudiated Bolsonaro’s comments in a statement on its webpage. “Globo did not do anything scummy or crooked. It did, as it always does, serious and responsible journalism.”
“By insulting and humiliating some of Brazil’s most important media, the country’s highest authority is feeding and sustaining a climate of hatred and mistrust towards Brazilian journalism,” said Emmanuel Colombie, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk.
“These repeated attacks are very worrying and Bolsonaro’s threats not to renew TV Globo’s broadcast frequencies in 2022 are extremely serious. They amount to direct censorship,” Colombie added.
RSF notes that Brazil is ranked 105 out of 180 countries in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
TV Globo reported that a doorman in a Rio de Janeiro gated community — where then-Congressman Bolsonaro owned a home — linked Bolsonaro’s name to the 2018 murder of Rio de Janeiro City Councilwoman Marielle Franco.
Franco was a prominent human rights activist who was murdered in a drive-by shooting.
TV Globo reported that the doorman told police that former police officer Elcio de Queiroz, one of the suspects in Franco’s murder who was arrested in June, entered the gated community hours before the murder.
The doorman also reported that he heard Bolsonaro’s voice on the phone, an account which was disputed after it was proven Bolsonaro was in Brasilia on the day of the murder, a fact included in TV Globo’s original report.