Women journalists in Brazil

Image: Brett Sayles


With Bolsonaro, violence against women journalists skyrockets in Brazil

Women constitute the majority in the exercise of Journalism in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Journalist Profile survey (Federal University of Santa Catarina, 2012), around 64% of active journalists in the country are female, against 36% of males. The summary of this survey, the most recent available, shows that Brazilian journalists are a predominantly female, young and white professional category”.

Expanding the gender profile of the survey above, it is observed that women journalists are, for the most part, white, single, up to 30 years old and practicing any religion. The survey also points out that younger female journalists earn less than men performing the same functions.

From the results of the survey, it is inferred that the presence of black men and women in paid journalism still needs to advance a lot, since only 5,3% declared themselves black and 18,4% brown. Already 72% declared themselves white.

mothers and journalists

The National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ) carried out, between August 7 and 17, 2020, the investigation “Mothers journalists and the context of the pandemic”, with the aim of mapping the situation of journalism professionals in relation to the cumulative exercise of work activity, housework and childcare amid the new coronavirus health crisis.

Coordinated by the National Commission of Women Journalists, an expanded collective made up of 21 representatives from 19 linked unions across the country, the survey was an effort by the Federation to understand the dilemmas faced by mother journalists who, despite exercising an essential activity, also keep accumulating other responsibilities. resulting from the sexual division of labor, such as care for the home, children and family.

Regarding the salary issue, 57,82% had no changes in salary or working hours during the pandemic. However, 11,45% of the participants stated that they had a salary reduction of 25% and, still, 2,07% had their contracts suspended based on Law nº 14.020 / 2020 (derived from Provisional Measure 936). Thus, 16,4% were impacted by the legislation that instituted the Emergency Work and Income Maintenance Program.

Of the journalist mothers, 7,6% are unemployed and 15,1% of the participants needed to request the emergency benefit, and 5,56% received the amount of R$ 600, another 4,13% the amount of R$ 1.200, destined for mothers who are solely responsible for children or heads of household and 5,41%. Others who applied for it did not receive it.

The problem of increased workload and the fact that they are always available to work as a condition of the home office, in addition to the fact that they really focus on household chores and child care, are highlighted by the surveys. As a result, even sharing care, these women are overloaded with online classes, food and home care.

Reports address the difficulty of caring for their children during remote classes; reconciling this and other responsibilities with journalistic work; about how they are charged for the performance of remote work without having empathy from hierarchical superiors; and also about the feeling of having to be available for work all the time.

And those who continue to work in person or in a mixed way, do not have support for the situation of suspended classes and the risk of not being isolated.

One of the main items evidenced by this research is the trajectory, of how the invisibility of gender overload penalizes women, ceasing to be the object of public policies and practical and effective coping actions.

With no concern on the part of the authorities (at least so far) about central office regulation, workplace equity and family rearrangements during the pandemic, isolation has left mothers, journalists or not, on the brink of exhaustion – which in in the near future it may even become illness and recommendations for removal from work.

Many of these journalist mothers abandoned their life plans (such as studies and wellness and self-care activities) due to travel, abusive and intense work, accompanying their children to school and maintaining household chores.

Add to that the mental overload arising from the context: even when the woman shares the responsibilities of home and family with someone else, the work almost always falls to her. not being able to point out what must be done, what bills must be paid, what must be bought in one trip to the market.

It is also worth emphasizing the fact that many of these journalist mothers are providers for their families: when this does not happen in the case of single mothers, it is because those who maintain the affective-family relationship have lost their jobs, or are still elderly or unable to work or even to take care of yourself

When the issue is one of overload, the investigation assumes the character of a complaint by mapping a series of abuses that occurred in work environments throughout Brazil. Journalist mothers pointed out the occurrence of abusive trips, overwork, increase in leadership positions (even among those who saw a reduction in wages and hours), the accumulation of functions and frequent demands for accounting for deadlines, shifts (including those who are in telecommuting) and numerous meetings, as well as those forced to attend courses, although they are already taking care of children, the elderly and household chores.

With Bolsonaro, violence against women journalists skyrockets in Brazil

The context of violence against journalists in Brazil is divided into before and after the President of the Republic, Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Elected in 2018 in the wake of the growth of the extreme right in the world, using the mass shooting of disinformation as a political strategy, the president strictly follows Donald Trump's policy of discrediting the press and inciting his mass of followers to carry out persecution to journalists.

The offensive against Journalism is not a small problem, after all, the press is an essential part of the functioning of a democracy. According to the Report on Violence against Journalists and Freedom of the Press in Brazil, prepared by the National Federation of Journalists (FENAJ), in 2020, the President of the Republic alone was responsible for almost 41% of attacks on the press in the country (175 out of a total of 428 cases). Overall, there was an increase of 105,77% compared to 2019, a year in which there was also an increase in press freedom violations in the country.

Attacks in general (not just by the president) on women also went up. They went from 21,7% of cases in 2019 to 28,44% of cases in 2020. Most cases of violence against journalists in the country are against male professionals (65,34%), which is the general trend since when the Federation started the survey, in the 1990s.

However, in the category of verbal aggression and virtual attacks, there is an upward trend in relation to the female gender, very much in line with the posture of President Bolsonaro and his supporters. In addition, in relation to general data on gender violence, there are always underreporting.

There is a pattern of behavior by the President of the Republic in relation to attacks against the press: the most glaring cases involve women as targets. Persecution is always more violent when the target is female journalists, when the attack often takes on a sexual connotation.

Bolsonaro's sexist, misogynistic and sexist statements serve as an order to his most faithful followers, who continue to continue attacks through online threats and aggression, invading the private lives of professionals, distorting facts, exposing personal data, threatening children and parents.

In July 2020, Bolsonaro was denounced at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council for his attacks on women journalists. Civil society organizations presented 54 cases of government offenses (the president, his ministers and other officials) against female media professionals.

Women journalists are still organized and fighting. An example of this was the virtual seminar of the Brazilian Network of Journalists and Communicators with a Vision of Gender and Race (RIPVG-Brasil), held on March 18, 2021, with the theme “Gender violence in journalism: legal solutions”. The event had the participation of Denise Dora, executive director of Artigo 19, and Patrícia Campos Mello, special reporter and columnist for Folha de São Paulo. The mediation was by Jacira Melo, director of the Patrícia Galvão Institute. Miriam Bobadilla, coordinator of the Red Internacional de Periodistas conVisión de Género (RIPVG), participated in the opening.

On the occasion of the RIPVG-Brasil seminar, it became evident that aggressiveness and misogyny are present in attacks against female journalists, constituting in itself a strong attack on freedom of the press and an attempt to remove women from this public professional space.

Within the scope of union organization, in order to broaden the debate on gender issues in the union movement of Brazilian journalists, FENAJ (National Federation of Journalists) created, in 2017, its first National Commission of Women Journalists, a collective that works as an auxiliary commission of the entity's direction, being integrated by professionals indicated by the Unions affiliated to the Federation.

In its second composition (2020), the National Commission of Women Journalists is composed of 21 professionals, representing 19 Trade Unions. Among the actions of this collective are mobilization campaigns on the occasion of March 8 (in 2020 and 2021 – Fight as a journalist) and the research “Mães journalists and the context of the pandemic”, which highlighted the work overload for women journalists .

Below are some reports of cases of violence against women journalists in Brazil:


On June 1, 2021, Bolsonaro called CNN Brasil presenter Daniela Lima a “quadruped” when speaking to his supporters at the door of the Palácio do Alvorada. He was commenting on a post on Bolsonarist networks that distorted a speech by the journalist about the generation of formal jobs, falsely implying that she was criticizing good news.

On June 21, 2021, at a graduation ceremony at the Aeronautics School of Specialists (EEAR), the president took off his protective mask against Covid-19, intimidated reporter Laurene Santos, from TV Vanguarda, a Globo affiliate in São Paulo and told the professional to shut up.


On February 18, 2020, one of Bolsonaro's most serious attacks took place, involving Patrícia Campos Mello, a reporter for the newspaper FSP. Speaking again to supporters, the president repeated a lie that had already been made by a deponent at the Fake News CPMI and by his son, federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro: that the journalist may have “insinuated herself sexually in exchange for information to try to harm Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign”. “She wanted a scoop. She wanted to get the scoop at any cost against me,” said the president. Armies of fake accounts and real profiles began to attack the journalist day and night in one of the worst government lynching campaigns.

On February 20, 2020, Bolsonaro disparagingly quoted journalist Eliane Cantanhede in a free letter on his personal profile on a social network.

On February 26, 2020, the president attacked the journalist Vera Magalhães through her personal Twitter microbog account, an attitude that he repeated again in a live on February 27, when he also returned to talk about Patrícia Campos Mello.

On March 6, Jair Bolsonaro attacks Patrícia Campos Mello on Twitter.

On March 17, Bolsonaro again attacked Vera Magalhães on Twitter.

On May 17th, television reporter Clarissa Oliveira, from TV BandNews, was attacked with a flag on the head by a supporter of President Jair Bolsonaro at a demonstration in Brasília.

On June 16, 2020, Jair Bolsonaro, in a live on his personal profile on a social network, called journalist Thaís Oyama “that Japanese woman”, referring with disdain to the ethnicity of the journalist who wrote a book about him .

There are also two reports of female journalists attacked by Bolsonaro in press conferences, but their names have not been identified: on March 18, when he attacks a journalist who asks him about Covid-19, and on March 23, when a professional asks him about the popularity of the then Minister of Health, Henrique Mandetta.


On March 10, 2019, Bolsonaro used his Twitter account to share false information about reporter Contança Rezende, then at the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo. A Bolsonarist website had brought a post from a French blog that falsely attributed to her a statement against Senator Flávio Bolsonaro. When the distorted content was already circulating via social networks, Bolsonaro pumped the information, promoting a presidential virtual lynching of the journalist to her millions of followers.

On May 16, 2019, he attacked reporter Marina Dias, from FSP, who asked him about cuts in the education budget. Visibly irritated by demonstrations by students and teachers, he blustered: “First, you, from the FSP, you have to go back to a good college and do good journalism. That's what Folha has to do and not hire anyone or anyone to be a journalist, to sow discord and ask silly questions and publish disgusting things”.

A Brazilian Air Force helicopter was used to transport relatives and friends of the President of the Republic to his son's wedding in May 2019. When asked by Folha reporter Talita Fernandes about the case, Bolsonaro declared: “Excuse me , I'm at a military ceremony, there are relatives of mine here, I'd rather see them than answer a stupid question for you. Is it answered? Next question".

In July 2019, during a breakfast with foreign correspondents, Bolsonaro was asked about the fact that journalist Miriam Leitão and her husband, sociologist Sérgio Abranches, were not invited to a book fair in Jaraguá do Sul (SC) after pressure from extreme right-wing groups. He began to attack her, going so far as to say that the torture she suffered during the military dictatorship, a fact that was abundantly documented, was a lie. Both Miriam Leitão and journalist Vera Magalhães are systematic targets of Bolsonarism.

This situation does not seem very different from that accused by Brazilian women

We are 52% of the population (and 56% are black). We are under-represented in “serious” spaces (such as television news), according to a Unesco survey, carried out every 2 years in 10 countries.

In Brazil, we are present in only 18% of cases (compared to our participation in the population), and systematically as victims or witnesses. When it comes to an expert, it's usually the man who does the talking. As well as women, in general, they accumulate more than 4 years of study in any profession.

And black women are even more underrepresented.

Gender violence tends to be naturalized in the media, except when one of the accused is famous, when the fact becomes spectacular. In our “mainstream media”, for example, the journalist's reporting at the UN was not publicized.

pandemic times

In times of a pandemic, business declined and the cost of living increased. Brazil is back on the hunger map. And unemployment hit women more particularly – who today represent 39% of heads of families. Violence against women also increased during these times.

And, as resources for public policies to welcome women victims of violence have decreased, it is known that the data are underestimated, not least because, after denouncing the aggressor (the most frequent is the husband), she will return to the same house , to live with her abuser…

Thus, requests for protective measures increased by 14% in the 1st half of 2021 in Brazil; Denied measures also grow (Every hour, 45 protective measures were requested in 2021. Numbers indicate that requests motivated by domestic violence decreased at the beginning of the pandemic, but grew again later. Victims claim that the longer they live together, and the crisis of the economic situation, worsens the situation, with the aggressors inside the house.)

It is also known that in the first half of 2021 alone, the period in which the country experienced the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, around 152 emergency protective measures (UMP) were granted in 24 Federation Units.

This means that approximately one precautionary measure of urgency was issued every twelve minutes in the country, in the first half of this year, by the Courts of Justice – a growth of 15% in relation to the same period last year.

Femicide/violence/aggression against women

In June 2021, an increase in adolescent victims and in the over-40 age group is observed. in July, there was an increase in the age group from 20 to 29 years old, as well as a greater number of news without data on the age of the victims. in all, in these 3 months (May, June, July), 126 feminicides.

Relationship between gender violence and sexist violence against journalists

On March 8, 2021, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a report entitled “Journalism against sexism”, which reveals the scope of the risks of sexual and gender-based violence faced by women journalists and their impact on society.

Journalism can be a dangerous profession. But being a woman and a journalist often means taking a double risk: the dangers inherent in the profession increase the risks of being exposed to sexual or gender-based violence. The survey “Journalism versus Sexism”* reveals the scope of this reality.

Of the 112 countries where journalists responded to the questionnaire prepared for this report, 40 were considered dangerous or very dangerous for women in the profession. The danger is not only lurking for journalists in classic journalism environments, or in new virtual fields, on the internet and social networks, but also where they should feel safe, in their newsrooms.

Three years after the publication of a first report that revealed the difficulties faced by journalists, men and women, who cover issues related to women's rights, RSF launches a new survey based, above all, on the analysis of responses to a questionnaire sent to its employees, correspondents around the world, as well as journalists specializing in gender issues.

“We have an overriding obligation to defend journalism with all our strength, in the face of all the dangers that threaten it, and sexual and gender-based assaults and intimidation are among those dangers,” wrote RSF Secretary General, Christophe Deloire, in the preface. for the report. It is inconceivable that the journalist runs a double risk and has to defend himself on an additional front, a front, incidentally, multiple because it is located both outside and inside the newsrooms ”.

Among journalists, women's rights specialists and those covering sports or politics are the most vulnerable to violence. Saudi journalist Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jerawi, arrested for denouncing her country's male guardianship system, was tortured with electric shocks and sexually abused during her detention.

In Brazil, journalist Patrícia Campos Mello paid dearly for her investigation into President Bolsonaro's illegal use of private resources to fund disinformation campaigns. She was the target of an extremely violent cyberbullying campaign after Jair Bolsonaro and his elected sons accused her of having “extorted” information in exchange for sexual favors.

Still in Brazil, around fifty sports journalists launched the #DeixaElaTrabor movement to denounce the practice of forced kisses by fans during live coverage of sporting events. In France, around 40 journalists from the sports daily L'Equipe rallied to support their peers following revelations of harassment in sports editorials.

In its report, RSF also examines the impact of this violence on journalism itself and how, more often than not, the trauma suffered leads to silence and reduces the pluralism of information. In addition to stress, anguish and fears, sexual and gender violence leads journalists to temporarily or even permanently close their accounts on social networks (a consequence pointed out by 43% of the participants in the RSF survey), when they themselves do not call themselves a censor (48 %), change specialty (21%), or even resign (21%).

To reduce this violence, RSF includes in its report a series of recommendations aimed at journalists. newsrooms and governments.

Online violence against women journalists

Journalists are one of the groups of women particularly affected by this form of gender violence. Not only are women journalists and women media workers more exposed to attacks online than their male counterparts, but in recent years "they have experienced an increase in online insults, harassment and harassment". Online attacks against female journalists take on specific gender-related characteristics and are often misogynistic in nature and sexualized in their content. This type of violence leads to self-censorship and “directly attacks women's visibility and full participation in public life”.

UNESCO has highlighted that the most frequent forms of online violence against women journalists and media professionals include monitoring and harassment, publication of personal data, trolling, defamation or disparagement, and viral hate. Several civil society organizations also highlighted the prevalence of acts of “electronic espionage of women journalists and human rights defenders in the region … [with the aim] of controlling, silencing, intimidating or extorting women who challenge the status quo”.

The type of issue addressed by women journalists is also a relevant factor in the prevalence of online violence against them. According to the United Nations Secretary-General, “[Women] covering topics such as politics, law, economics, sports and women's rights, gender and feminism are at particular risk of being victims of online violence. While male journalists are also abused online, those committed against female journalists tend to be more serious.” This trend was also noted by UNESCO.

As several recent reports from civil society organizations in the region have emphasized, “violence by electronic means is not something new or unique on platforms” but one more manifestation of the patterns of violence and discrimination based on gender that are registered in the region.

In this way, online violence “is an extension of a structural situation of systematic violence perpetrated by partners, former partners, close friends, strangers and even government institutions and other relevant actors”. At the same time, online violence translates and feeds back various forms of gender violence in non-virtual spaces.

In its new report on recorded breaches since the beginning of 2021, RSF notes an increase in attacks

The data is almost mind-boggling. During the first six months of 2021, the number of attacks by the Brazilian head of state against the press increased by 74% compared to the second half of 2020. Between January and June of this year, Jair Bolsonaro attacked the press 87 times, which makes him the top predator of a system where your children also have a place. In the same period, Carlos Bolsonaro, councilor of Rio de Janeiro, was the author of 83 attacks on the press (an increase of 84,4% compared to the second half of 2020), while Eduardo Bolsonaro, federal deputy, attacked the national media 85 times – a high total, although it presents a drop of 41,37% compared to the end of 2020, when 145 attacks were committed.

In total, the RSF team identified that the “Bolsonaro system” was responsible for 331 attacks on the press in Brazil, an increase of 5,41% compared to the second half of 2020. If the numbers are serious, the nature of the attacks is uniformly larger

Although the health crisis continues to devastate the country (more than 550.000 victims on July 26), mainly due to the disastrous management of the federal government, the attacks by the president and his supporters against journalists have intensified and diversified, sometimes reaching an unimaginable level of vulgarity and violence.

On June 21, during a trip to the state of São Paulo, the president completely lost his composure during a press conference and violently insulted a journalist from TV Vanguarda, affiliated with the Globo group, who questioned him for not wearing a mask upon arrival at the place of his visit. . “Shut up (…) Globo is a shitty press, a rotten press”, shouted Bolsonaro after voluntarily taking off his mask to respond to the reporter.

Questioned on June 25 about suspected fraud by the federal government for the purchase of vaccines against Covid-19, he lost control again, addressing journalist Victoria Abel, from Radio CBN: you can be reborn! “At the same press conference, he asked reporters to stop asking stupid questions.

The attacks also came from other positions in the federal government. Among the most offensive ministers are Onyx Lorenzoni, Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, and Damares Alves, Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, with, respectively, 18 and 7 attacks registered in the period.

Every week, at the Presidential Palace, in Alvorada, he speaks live on the president's Facebook channel, for over an hour, on topics of his choice. This 'live', streamed live on YouTube, allows you to, without getting angry, speak directly to your audience, spread your anti-press rhetoric and savagely attack the media, and believe that they permanently "lie and misinform" , mainly on the health situation in the country.

Of the 24 weekly shows in the first half of 2021, Jair Bolsonaro frontally attacked the media in 19 of them.

In this space, Jair Bolsonaro builds new narratives on controversial topics. He brazenly plays with facts, asserts “his truths” and manufactures disinformation for his own interests and those of his government, systematically blaming the press for all the ills of the country, the social isolation measures, the organization of vaccination, etc. In several of them, for example, he offered indications and recommendations for early treatment against Covid-19 and the use of ineffective drugs such as chloroquine.

Female journalists: continue to be the main targets

Women journalists, as in 2020, remain in 2021 as victims of the primary and crude machismo of the Bolsonaro family (concentrating 6,1% of the attacks on the president and his three children).

On June 2, the president called Daniela Lima, presenter of CNN Brasil and the preferred target of his attacks, as a quadruped, triggering an avalanche of misogynistic and heinous attacks against the journalist on social networks.

On March 31, TV Vitória journalist Marla Bermuda was the target of a smear campaign and received death threats after federal deputy Carla Zambelli, a staunch supporter of Jair Bolsonaro, accused her of “manipulation” and “transformation of cemeteries into recording studios”. in a video.

Patricia Campos Mello, also a regular target of attacks since the 2018 elections, won two trials, on January 21 and March 27, 2021, condemning, respectively, Eduardo Bolsonaro and Jair Bolsonaro to compensate her for the damages . for sexism. and degrading comments.

In addition, journalists responsible for presidential coverage in Brasília, victims in 2020 of violent attacks and public humiliations by government supporters, were also attacked and harassed by Bolsonaro in the first 6 months of the year. In response to a complaint made in 2020 by RSF and partners in Brazil denouncing the vulnerability of these journalists, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) issued an opinion on May 3, ordering the adoption of measures to strengthen the security of these journalists.

Brazil is in 111th position in the 2021 World Press Freedom Ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders, having entered the red zone of the Index for the first time. On July 2, 2021, RSF added President Bolsonaro to its global list of press freedom predators.


Judge Inah de Lemos e Silva Machado, of the Central Court of São Paulo, sentenced President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday, March 26, 2021, to indemnify journalist Patrícia Campos Mello, a reporter for the newspaper FSP, for a crime against her , with sexist statements in 2018

By decision of the first instance, which can be appealed, Bolsonaro will have to pay 20 thousand reais.

At the end of 2018, Campos Mello published a report on an irregular scheme of sending WhatsApp messages in that year's elections, which operated based on the fraudulent use of old names and CPFs registered on cell phone chips. The investigation was based on documents and reports obtained from Hans River, a former employee of Yacows, a company specializing in digital marketing and accused of involvement in the scheme. Later, River lied in testimony before the Fake News Parliamentary Inquiry Committee

“She [Campos Mello] wanted a scoop. He wanted to give me a scoop at any cost. Already in 2018, he [Hans] already said he was going to arrive and asked: 'Did Bolsonaro pay you to reveal information through WhatsApp?' And another: if you made false news against the PT, less with less is more in mathematics. If I'm going to lie against the PT, I'll say it well, because the PT only screwed up.

River accused the journalist, without any evidence, of having made sexual advances to obtain information about Yacows. The statements were denied by the newspaper based on text and audio messages.

In January of this year, one of the president's sons, federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP), was also sentenced to indemnify Campos Mello. In this case, in thirty thousand reais.

It was not informed if the second instance was successful, if they won or lost and if they paid.

Except for Biana Santana, who defeats Bolsonaro in court and wins compensation for moral damages.

The sentence that condemned the president Jair Bolsonaro (No Party) to indemnify the journalist in BRL 10 thousand Bianca Santana was confirmed on August 18, 2021, by the São Paulo Court of Justice.

PS This article had the collaboration of Samira de Castro, Bia Barbosa, Mabel Dias, Rosely Goffman, Jacira Melo, Carmem Pereira, Marisa Sanematsu and Ana Veloso.

* Rachel Moreno is a psychologist and feminist activist. Author, among other books, of The image of women in the media (Popular expression).











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