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September 19, 2017

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Coming World Cup in Brazil a test of efforts to protect journalists: CPJ

BRASILIA--At least 12 journalists have been killed in Brazil since 2011, said a report Tuesday that argues the upcoming World Cup will be a test of efforts to improve conditions for reporters.

Starting June 12, the world will be focused on Brazil as its hosts the soccer championship. And the ability of local media to report on events — including any potential protests or mishaps — during the global sporting event will also be under scrutiny, said a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"Brazil is the 11th deadliest country in the world for journalists, and at least 10 have been murdered in direct reprisal for their work since Dilma Rousseff came to power" in 2011, the report said, noting another two died while covering dangerous assignments.

Journalists also face legal harassment and judicial censorship as they try to do their jobs, it added.

The president has recently begun enacting changes aimed at improving the environment in which journalists work, in particular trying to eliminate impunity for those who kill journalists.

"In the past year, authorities obtained an unprecedented four convictions in such cases," CPJ director Joel Simon said in his introduction to the report.

The government is also working to improve the freedom of online media in the country, where "hundreds of blog posts and links are taken down each year by court order, according Google," he said.

However, too few of the people who murder journalists face justice, the report said.

"Brazil (has) ranked for four consecutive years on CPJ's index of nations where the murders of journalists are most likely to go unpunished," it said.

And the courts, too often, are using laws aimed at protecting privacy for average citizens to silence legitimate media coverage of powerful figures.

"Often relying on their close connections to local judges, these powerbrokers have secured legal orders that effectively prevent or discourage critical reporting by making it extremely costly for media outlets and independent journalists to publish unflattering stories about them," the report said.

The report notes that the environment during the World Cup is likely to be volatile. Last year, during the less prominent Confederations Cup, more than a million people took to the streets to protest spending on stadiums instead of on public services.

Simon said the four-week tournament will allow the world to see whether "Brazil's leaders (will) show the political maturity and confidence to allow unfettered coverage by the global media."

And the larger question, of whether Rousseff has "the will and determination to beat back the culture of impunity and end the legal harassment of the media" will take longer to answer.

The president was expected to meet Tuesday with the CPJ Americas' director Carlos Lauria.

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