Jair Bolsonaro was sworn into office on January 1, 2019 and represents the most radical political shift for Brazil since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. Bolsonaro has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, spoken in favor of torture and threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. In his first speech as president, Bolsonaro proclaimed that Brazilians were “being freed from socialism.” Community radio stations are one of Brazil’s most widespread tools to spread information within the poorer urban areas and the countryside. This article was orginally published in Brasil de Fato.
Censorship in Brazil: 130 community radio stations left without license to operate
Former Brazilian President Michel Temer cancelled the licenses of some 130 community radio stations in various regions of the country on the last day of his governance. Organizations representing the sector criticized the measure and noted the absence of public debate on the issue.
The decision by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC) was published in the Official Journal of the Union (DOU) on December 31, 2018, one day before Michel Temer handed over the presidential sash to Jair Bolsonaro.
The national representative of the Global Association of Community Radios (AMARC) in Brazil, Pedro Martins, affirmed that the decision “is clearly persecution against the sector that represents the voice of the communities, the people’s voice in the country’s communication.” He also stressed that the measure was taken without any debate with civil society and that the ministry did not clarify the reasons that led to the decision. The only public statement was by Fernando Henrique Chagas, president of the Brazilian Radio and TV Association of Bahia (Abart) criticizing the financing of community radio stations.
In a note released January 4, the Brazilian Association of Community Radios (Abraco) questioned the government’s treatment of community radio stations, which differed greatly from the treatment of commercial radio stations. He also pointed out that community broadcasters face many difficulties, including the lack of resources.
The restrictions mentioned by the government refer to the 1995 Law (9.612), which regulates the Community Radio Service in the country. According to this law, enacted by then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, community radio stations were to be criminalized, restricting their operation.