Brazil: Concerns around restrictions on freedom of expression during the Olympics, sponsors comment

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The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Worldwide Olympic Partners and Rio 2016 Olympic Games Official Sponsors to comment on restrictions on freedom of expression during the Games.  Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Visa, Dow and Panasonic have responded so far. We will indicate in the coming days if others respond.

In the lead up to the Rio Olympics, communities and workers have raised significant human rights issues. There are now worrying reports of restrictions on freedom of expression during the Games. Sponsors are vital to the operations of sports events such as the Olympic Games. We think it is important the IOC and other stakeholders know the position of sponsors on human rights issues related to the Games.

Rio Olympics 2016, Human Rights, and Freedom of Expression

In monitoring the human rights impacts of the games we have heard worrying reports of restrictions on peaceful protests and freedom of expression. It is alledged that during the Games the right to freedom of expression has been restricted inside and outside the Olympic arenas. On the day of the opening ceremony, military police alledgedly suppressed protests Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo using unnecessary and excessive use of force, using tear gas and pepper spray. Dozens were arrested. Inside the arenas, the Brazilian National Force is alledgedly censoring peaceful protest and videos have emerged of audiance members being removed from stadiums and arenas for wearing T-shirts showing political messages or raising paper signs with printed words that express their disapproval of politicians.

Public authorities have justified these acts by citing the General Olympics Law (Law N. 12.384/2016). Clarifying this law, the federal deputy judge, João Augusto Carneiro de Araújo, ordered Rio 2016 organisers to “refrain immediately” from the repression of peaceful protests, but the International Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee have appealed this decision.

For more information on human rights impacts in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics see here.

 

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Company response
23 August 2016

Panasonic Response

Author: Panasonic

Panasonic strongly supports the Olympic and Paralympic Movement ideal of promoting a peaceful society and the preservation of human dignity through sports. In our business activities, we aim to treat all our stakeholders with the maximum degree of consideration and respect for their human rights. However, as a company, we are not in a position to comment on political matters or specific governments in any country or region. It is our hope that the International Olympic Committee will act to enable further discussion of the subject.

Company response
18 August 2016

Dow response

Author: Dow

As a Worldwide Partner of the Olympic Movement, The Dow Chemical Company wholly aligns to the Olympic Games’ values of excellence, respect and friendship. We believe in the spirit of the Games and its unique ability to engage the world in a way that is positive and inspirational. Dow is globally committed to respecting the dignity and human rights of all people, and living the values of integrity and respect is core to the way we do business.

For further comment, we direct you to the International Olympic Committee.

Article
17 August 2016

Brazil: Conectas condemns censorship of protests during the Olympic Games

Author: Conectas Human Rights (Brazil)

“Public statement: Olympics and Democracy-Conectas condemns censorship of protests during the Olympic Games”, 8 August 2016

Conectas strongly condemns the decision of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee to censure spectators who, during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, exercise their right to freedom of expression...[D]ays following the official opening of the Rio Olympics, the press reported several cases of spectators who were censored or removed from the venues by security guards after peacefully protesting against Brazil’s acting president.The Committee bases these actions on the so-called General Law of the Olympics (Law No. 13,284) and “clean arena” policy. According to its representatives, this policy protects the interests of the companies that have invested money to have their image associated with the Games...[T]here is nothing to support the position of the Organizing Committee. The Brazilian Constitution is clear in its protection of the right to freedom of speech. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office...stated that “the conduct of the security guards preventing the display of slogans and...removing citizens who display them is extremely authoritarian, illegal and unconstitutional”. The Judiciary accepted the case and granted an injunction permitting peaceful political protests at official Rio 2016 Olympic venues...

Read the full post here

Article
17 August 2016

Brazil: Protesters demonstrate against forced evictions, environmental abuses & police brutality before Olympic opening

Author: Ciara Long and Natalie Southwick, RioonWatch (Brazil)

“Rio Residents Protest Olympics Impacts at “Exclusion Games” Demonstration [VIDEO | IMAGES]”, 9 August 2016

On…August 5…protesters gathered in the Saens Peña square…hours before the Olympics opening ceremony was due to take place in nearby Maracanã stadium. Hundreds more joined throughout the afternoon…reaching nearly 1,000 attendees. The protest was the culmination of a week-long series of events organized by the Popular Committee on the World Cup and Olympics. The Military Police presence was intense from the beginning of the event, with heavily armed personnel, helicopters, cavalry and police cars present. Initial proceedings were calm…However, on two occasions…dozens of police formed tight circles around two or three protesters, without evidence of any clear provocation or providing explanation to a tense crowd…Protesters demonstrated against a range of negative impacts felt by Rio residents due to hosting the Olympics, from forced evictions to police brutality, the Games’ disastrous environmental legacy, and generalized misplaced public priorities in spending billions on the Games when the city doesn’t meet its citizens’ basic needs…

Read the full post here

Company response
17 August 2016

Bridgestone response

Author: Bridgestone

As a Worldwide Olympic Partner and supporter of the Olympic Movement, Bridgestone believes the Games – particularly those in Brazil, a country where we have a proud 90 year history – represent an important opportunity for sport to serve as an agent of positive social change and legacy for host countries. Respectful expressions of freedom and preservation of human rights are critical to any active democracy, and are inherent in our company’s core values.  With regard to the Olympic Games, we trust in the actions of the IOC to uphold the Olympic Charter.

Company response
17 August 2016

Coca-Cola response

Author: Coca-Cola

“For more than 80 years, The Coca-Cola Company has supported the Olympic values of equality, inspiration and fair competition.  As the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympic Games, we’ve seen firsthand the positive influence and impact the Olympic Games have had on athletes, host countries and billions of fans.  Our sponsorship has made it possible for thousands of athletes from countries around the globe to participate in the Olympic Games, the world’s one truly unifying event.
“We would direct you to the International Olympic Committee for further comment.”

Company response
17 August 2016

Visa response

Author: Visa

As a global payments technology company, and long-serving Olympic Games sponsor, Visa stands for universal acceptance and recognizes the importance of respecting the rights of all individuals. We have shared your inquiry with the IOC and suggest you contact them directly to hear more about their policies.