Marie Declerq

"I came to Berlin for a good reason." 

It was a strange feeling to arrive in Berlin. I had mixed feelings: I was excited at the prospect of living in Berlin for three months, but at the same time my heart and worries were in Brazil, because of the presidential elections there – the first elections since former president Dilma Roussef’s removal from office.

Of all the elections it was this one I most wanted to take part in and write about, together with my colleagues at VICE Brazil, where I have worked for the last five years. At first I felt guilty about not being in my country and doing proper journalistic work on the elections, especially after the victory of Jair Bolsonaro, a very right-wing politician. He represents a step backwards in terms of human rights in Brazil. 

But I came to Berlin for a good reason. I applied for RSF Germany’s Berlin Scholarship Programme after receiving death threats from an online hate group that trolled me on the internet for two months because I had written an article about them for VICE. Here, I am getting proper training in digital security and learning how to pass on this knowledge to other journalists in Brazil.

The course and the wonderful people I met during the scholarship programme helped me to deal with the frustration and disappointment I felt when Bolsonaro won a landslide victory against the candidate of the Worker’s Party (PT) Fernando Haddad. Quite frankly that had been my worst fear. The members of the group that harassed me are big supporters of Bolsonaro, and in their eyes his victory justified all their actions against me and other journalists and activists who dared to report on the group’s online hate crimes.

The victory of the far right in Brazil has strengthened my determination to return to my country and bring all the knowledge about digital security to other journalists. In our profession it is becoming increasingly normal to receive death threats, and this is why I think that there’s no better time for this training course than now. I already miss Berlin, especially the open-late stores and the beautiful museums, but in 2019 it’s time to return to Brazil to do what I do best there."

Marie Declercq is a fellow on RSF Germany’s Berlin Scholarship Programme. She came to Berlin from Brazil for three months to take part in the training course on digital security. 

She studied law in São Paulo. The topic of her thesis was "Paedophilia, Child Pornography and the Internet".  She has been writing for VICE-Brasil since 2013.  Her main topics are gender, sexuality, human rights, politics and crime in Brazil.  Marie launched the column "Crime & Punishment in Brazil" in 2017.  She is also moderator of the series "Transe", which deals with sexuality in Brazil.

In May 2018 she began to receive death threats from a far-right group via email and social media channels after she wrote about the group.  The group is known for online incitement against blacks, women and human rights activists.

These threats made Marie realise that she needed to better protect her digital tracks and personal safety. During her stay in Berlin she learned about ways to protect herself against digital surveillance and now hopes to be able to pass this knowledge on to other journalists in Brazil.

Video: Bolsonaro is a threat to press freedom

In view of the presidential runoff election, Reporters Without Borders looked with alarm at the future of press freedom and democracy in Brazil. In the video, Marie Declercq briefly comments on the dangers of Bolsonaro for a free press.
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