First things first, what is BRICS? This is the acronym coined to represent Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. These countries have partnered up in order to benefit international governance, which enables them to sustain their state objectives and ease economic trades.

The big question is: Are media law policies in these countries legitimate or is it just smoke and mirrors? Well, there’s really no right or wrong answer, as these countries don’t enjoy the same power when it comes to freedom of speech.

Some of the countries’ leadership allows for this freedom, while others don’t entertain it; they will censor content that they don’t approve of at every opportunity they get.

Here’s how each of the BRICS countries deal with media freedom:


After being ruled by the military since around the 1960s, and tasting re-democratisation between 1979 and 1985, you would expect the relationship between media and democracy to be a reciprocatory one, right? Wrong!

Fast forward to the country’s current Freedom of Expression Bill, which offers comprehensive access to information under a democratic environment. Here, freedom of speech and press is guaranteed. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. There have been reports of media freedom coming under crisis after the government allegedly failed to protect journalists.

For instance, in an article published by ifex in May, it is reported that three journalists who belong to the O Estado de S. Paulo were assaulted and insulted at a demonstration gathering attended by President Jair Bolsonaro on Press Freedom Day.

The article further reveals that the president labelled journalists as ‘liars’ and that they should abstain from publishing news. Unfortunately for journalists, the issues didn’t end there.

Another journalist, Alex Braga, was attacked and threatened in the presence of his camera operator Laurismar Sampaio. The reason for the attack is speculated to be because Braga covers mostly corruption beats involving prominent locals and big cooperatives, and could expose any one of them. Braga continued to receive threats for months during assignments he was working on involving powerful politicians, according to an article written by CPJ.

It is clear that, in Brazil, media freedom comes at a high price and journalists’ lives are in danger, especially when they are reporting on prominent and political figures. This is despite the fact that their constitutional framework ‘ensures’ media freedom.

Debatable, isn’t it?

Here lies a true definition of a tug of war between political power and freedom of speech!


Russia is not too different from Brazil, ranking 149 out of 180 countries when it comes to freedom of the press. This is according to renowned media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders.

This ranking could be due to new laws that aim to punish fake news paddlers, the erratic arrest of journalists or even Russian government officials exerting pressure on independent media. There could be a number of things that may have given this unsatisfactory ranking.

Surely Russian citizens were waiting with bated breath for the announcement on new laws governing media, after having their media freedom bitten again following ‘media reports’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin signing two bills. The first aims to ‘outlaw’ the disrespect of government, with repeat offenders standing to face up to 15 years in prison, and the second outlaws the sharing of false information of public interest published under the guise of fake news — these bills were allegedly signed for ‘security purposes’.

This definitely makes one question Putin’s intentions.

Here’s what the security bills actually mean:

This move didn’t go unnoticed by the European Union and was seconded by Commissioner for Human Rights, who expressed that the merging laws are a major setback on media freedom in Russia.


The state of freedom of the press in India really depends on how one looks at things. According to a report done by RFS, there were six journalists that were murdered in 2018 versus the year 2019, where only one murder of a journalist was recorded.

You could, therefore, presume that 2019 saw a decline in the murders of reporters, while others might argue that even the murder of just one is unacceptable. Either way, the murder of a journalist is a direct insult to the profession and a serious dent in freedom of speech.

India’s constitution ensures the right to freedom of speech and expression; however; the very same constitution gives the government power to limit those rights. Should you express yourself in any way that raises eyebrows about the integrity of India, their sovereignty and their relationships with other foreign states, then your freedom will be most likely limited thereafter.

It’s clear that India is a country that is concerned about its image, reputation and keeping perfect relations with other nations. And nothing — including the media — should dent that.
Here’s some food for thought: The law and the constitution are superior in India, but who controls it? Share your answers with us in the comments section!


China has made it clear that freedom of expression is not a right but rather a privilege. Sounds hectic, right? Especially for a country that’s known for being one of the top leaders in producing communication devices.

According to the Congressional Executive Commission of China, the Chinese government offers limited freedom of expression, which gives it the power to monitor problematic issues. It can be argued that, in this way, at least it doesn’t give citizens and the media false hope. Everyone is all in the loop about what’s really going on and that it’s a privilege to be reporting on unfolding events in these circumstances.

However, according to another RSF report, it is said that China President Xi Jinping is controlling the flow of news and information thoroughly by keeping surveillance of Chinese citizens in online and traditional media.

Since freedom of speech is a privilege and not a right, this simply means that anything the media shares with the public can (and probably will) be controlled and censored by the government.

This means that the media can enjoy the privilege but have no real rights to freedom of speech; the world, and the Chinese citizens, will only know what the government wants them to know.

South Africa

The press in South Africa — compared to the others — is surely doing a lot better, ranking 31 since 2019. Freedom of the press is certainly there, but it’s also in a frail state, considering the Guptagate saga and the political influence in independent media and state media.

In an online article, The Conversation writes that South Africa boasts par in press freedom with the likes of the United Kingdom, Italy, Ghana and Canada, which earns these countries a satisfactory comment in their report card. But how did South Africa earn this?

First, let’s take into account that there aren't any reports of any journalist having been killed or jailed in these regions. However, it’s the verbal bullying and the denying access to events by some political parties that has denied South Africa an even better score in the World Press Freedom Ranking.

With that said, South Africa still has quite a bit of freedom when it comes to their opinions about government and public policies. Just take Twitter for instance. The platform is constantly on the outlook for new things to fight against or for. Recently, users started their fight against human trafficking in the country while in the same breathe freely calling on the president to do something about it. If this was in another country, this would be a totally different story: Some countries wouldn’t dare question the president. 

It can therefore be said, without a doubt, that South Africa — compared to the other nations here mentioned — comes out on top in press freedom, while the other nations are faced with more difficulties in achieving media freedom.
Media freedom in general is not something that is enjoyed in all states. Do you think that it’s currently a conditional luxury? Let us know in the comments section.

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Investigative journalism is an extremely important part of democracy. Learn more about Uncovering the importance of investigative journalism here.