Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has signed a decree allowing certain journalists to carry guns for protection.
The move has been criticised by press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres), which said the ruling set a “dangerous precedent”.
Journalists who report on crime stories will be one of several groups allowed to carry firearms, according to the decree. The new law is understood to come into effect next month.
RSF, which recorded four journalist deaths in Brazil last year, ranked the South American country 105 out of 180 countries in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index – a fall of three places on the previous year.
The new decree, signed by President Bolsonaro on 7 May, comes four months after he relaxed Brazil’s gun ownership laws.
Bolsonaro argued in a statement (translated from Portuguese) that gun ownership was an “individual right of the one who may want to have a firearm or seek the possession of a firearm”.
RSF’s Latin America bureau chief Emmanuel Colombié said: “This decision sets a dangerous precedent and does nothing to resolve the security problems that many Brazilian journalists face.
“It is with the tools they use to communicate, not with firearms, that journalists fulfil their heavy responsibility to report the news.”
The organisation added that Bolsonaro’s regime had increased “mistrust and confrontation with the media” since he took office late last year.
Bolsonaro took a swipe at “big media” during his victory speech in October 2018 and shared disinformation about a journalist who reported on a scandal involving an aide of his son.
He has also blocked some critical reporters on social media and made announcements to friendly reporters rather than open press conferences since taking office.
Human Rights Watch has claimed reporters were “harassed, threatened, and in some cases physically attacked” during the last Brazilian Presidential elections.
Picture: Reuters/Adriano Machado