Special Series: Perspectives from Undergraduate Law Students
–Pedro Abrantes Martins, Bachelor’s degree candidate, Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), Brazil; Research Fellow, Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development; member of the research group “Abusive Constitutionalism and Democratic Erosion,” UFPR
Freedom is at stake in Brazil. In 2020 alone, the government and its enthusiasts launched attacks on journalists, comedians, and autonomous institutions. Officials issued orders enforcing censorship, affecting government agencies and compromising individual rights. Either by informal (such as verbal and physical attacks on media individuals) or formal means (by enacting new legal measures), Jair Bolsonaro and his allies are slowly hindering liberties in the country. The actions deployed by Bolsonaro may appear only mildly problematic when analyzed in isolation, but they represent a greater danger when analyzed – properly – together. The latest developments should be perceived as part of a bigger phenomenon: worldwide democratic erosion.
Eroding from the Inside: Compromising Institutions
In July 2020, the Brazilian Special Secretariat for Social Communication (Secom) paid several YouTube channels (including channels with content for children and accounts accused of spreading fake news) to display propaganda in favor of the new social security reform.
Not long after that, a national comedian posted a parody on the aforementioned advertisement and was bashed by Secom’s official Twitter account and the current top culture official, Mário Frias, who called the comedian a “filthy creature”. Shortly after, Flávio Serafini, a Brazilian congressman, criticized Frias, who, in a menacing tone, told the lawmaker to watch out for the Federal Police. The whole situation was widely condemned by other lawmakers and civilians.
In a more recent attack, on September 4, the secretary of Culture, Mario Frias, signed a circular letter that was issued to autonomous governmental institutions, determining that appointments, dismissals, transfers, publication of notices and posts on websites and social networks of all bodies linked to the Special Secretariat for Culture must be previously sent to and approved by the institution.
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