Brazil’s Lula Gives the Press a Hard Time. Again.

     Brazil's Lula Gives the 
Press a Hard Time. Again.

    The Brazilian government
    is operating on a climate of electoral
    campaigning and the press is not. Out of step with each other,
    they leave
    room for all kinds of misunderstandings. President
    Lula da Silva made clear what he thinks: "News is the stuff
    we don’t want to see published; the rest is advertising".
    by: Alberto


    The new onslaught on the
    press by the government—the second this month—has aggravating circumstances:

    ** It was voiced this
    time by Chief of Staff José Dirceu, supposedly a rational politician,
    skillful negotiator, very little prone to emotional explosions and, considering
    the sum of his personal powers and attributes, almost a prime-minister.

    ** He was the first one
    to voice out in public—even before president Lula da Silva took office—the
    idea that the press was a matter of national interest.

    ** Based on that statement,
    which was considered a green light, the Brazilian corporate media felt encouraged
    to submit to BNDS (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico—National
    Economic Development Bank) a formal plea for a privileged line of credit.

    ** The attack, this time,
    was also fired against the federal departments, who were supposedly colluding
    with the press for broadcasting its investigations. What happened, however,
    was that Conamp and ANPR, the organizations representing the MP (Ministério
    Público—Public Prosecutor Office, promptly and courageously contested
    the accusations of minister José Dirceu (O Globo, Monday 1/19,
    page 3). They were not followed, however, by the organizations representing
    the press. Rather, they retreated silently. Some political journalists protested
    in isolation (Dora Kramer, Estado de S. Paulo and Jornal do Brasil,
    Monday 1/19) but as institutions, newspapers were mostly mute. They control
    the right to respond but did not feel compelled to exercise it democratically.
    Exceptions made to the same Estadão and to Globo,
    who published editorials four days after the onslaught by the minister
    (Tuesday, 1/20).

    ** On the same day that
    minister José Dirceu struck his blow (Friday, 1/16, next day papers),
    the president of BNDES, Carlos Lessa, usually in a good mood, forgot about
    about his proverbial carioca bonhomie and played hard on the press,
    making fun of it for the 34 times he was "fired" from his jobs.
    Please note that Carlos Lessa, due to the position he occupies now, will be
    the one to give the final word on the plea by the media for a special line
    of credit.

    These are the factors
    of the equation. Now the analysis:

    ** The declarations made
    by minister José Dirceu occurred in the midst of a redress ceremony
    dedicated to his friend and comrade Congressman Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh (PT-SP),
    whose name was featured in the news linked to torture sessions supposedly
    practiced against one of the alleged assassins of Mayor Celso Daniel. Only
    one newspaper, Folha, featured the accusation apparently leaked by
    the members of MP following the case. No other major newspaper followed up
    on the information. That reaction was justified by the irresponsible nature
    of the accusations.

    ** But the government,
    who complains so much about the generalizations committed by the means of
    communication, did the exact same thing: it generalized—although the
    minister had referred to "sectors of the press". He extended to
    an institution—the Press—the mistake commited by one of its parts.
    Was he afraid of Folha or did he prefer to beat an abstract victim?

    ** Meanwhile, this same
    press—theorically agile and attentive to the public interest and thus
    deserving special attention from the government—gave in to summertime
    sluggishness: it showed no reaction at all. There was no time? Don’t newspapers
    come out every day? Don’t they draft on Friday the editorials for Saturday,
    Sunday and Monday? If the matter can be postponed for four or five days, what
    is the reason for the hurry and flurry and their proclaimed commitment with

    ** The Federal Departments-Press
    or Fourth Power-Sixth Power collusion, if it in fact exists, was created during
    a time when the PT was opposition and the order of the day was a systematic
    everything-goes to weaken the government. The leaking of secret information
    became a common practice because it was immediately transformed into glowing
    speeches in the House and in the Senate by the indefatigable opposition leaderships.

    ** The remarkable bad
    mood of Carlos Lessa was not a random occurrence. He mocked the press heavily,
    following the boastful attitude of governor Roberto Requião, stating
    before reporters that he had come to the nation’s capital to protect the president
    of BNDES from the ministerial shake-up. If a character with the moral and
    professional stature of Carlos Lessa needs protection of this kind, then all
    the 34 rumors about an eventual replacement make sense.

    The larger truth is that
    the government is operating on a climate of electoral campaigning and the
    press is not. Out of step with each other, they leave room for all kinds of
    misunderstandings. Including that ABC in Journalism uttered by president Lula
    da Silva in the ceremony to close the year: "News is the stuff we don’t
    want to see published; the rest is advertising".

    During campaigns, what
    candidates want is praise. If the press made a mistake, the mistake was not
    being smart enough to perceive that this was the worst time to ask for anything
    from a government on a permanent state of electoral mobilization.

    Alberto Dines, the
    author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório
    de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies
    in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório
    da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
    daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at

    This article was
    originally published in Observatório da Imprensa —

    Translated by Tereza
    Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
    in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.

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