Brazil's far-right frontrunner promises free press

  • 13/10/2018
Jair Bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro. Photo credit: Getty

Brazil's leading presidential candidate has vowed to defend freedom of the press after his tirades against the media and reports of his supporters attacking journalists raised fears that civil liberties might suffer if he is elected.

Soon after describing the media as "trash" in a Thursday tweet, far-right congressman and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro turned around and called journalists "friends", pledging to defend their work.

"When they cover the facts, without political activism and partiality, the media fulfil the valuable role of informing people," he said on Twitter, adding "WE ARE AGAINST ANY TYPE OF SOCIAL CONTROL OF THE MEDIA AND INTERNET."

Like US President Donald Trump, whose 2016 campaign he has emulated, Mr Bolsonaro has derided critical press coverage as "fake news" and connected directly with supporters on social media, where he posts video chats, retweets right-wing outlets and suggests the media is part of a corrupt system out to stop him.

In a Friday interview, his presidential rival, leftist Fernando Haddad, criticised Mr Bolsonaro's campaign for "fostering a culture of violence".

Mr Bolsonaro suspended campaign events after surviving a knife attack during a rally last month, but still rode a wave of anger over political graft, rising violence and a weak economy to win 46 percent of first-round votes on Sunday.

Opinion polls show him with a double-digit lead over Mr Haddad ahead of the October 28 run-off.

In Brazil's most bitterly polarised election since the end of military rule in 1985, Mr Bolsonaro's stabbing by a mentally disturbed man has been the most prominent in a string of violent acts hanging over the race.

Some incidents involve his supporters allegedly attacking or threatening journalists, along with gay people and other minorities that he has denigrated. Some of his comments have led to him facing federal charges of hate speech, which he has dismissed as politically motivated.

On Thursday, a car transporting Mr Haddad was blocked by a pick-up truck in Brasilia, according to his communication staff. The unidentified occupants of the vehicle shouted epithets against Mr Haddad, his aides said.

Mr Haddad said a man had been identified in connection with the incident and is being monitored by police.