Brazil: Reporter Expulsion 
Is No Censorship

    Brazil’s Minister of
    Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, avowed he
    would not admit anyone condemning the Brazilian government
    for practicing press censorship when it cancelled the visa of Larry
    Rohter, the New York Times correspondent in Brazil. He called
    the report abusive and the reporter unfit to be a journalist.
    by: Edla
    Lula

    Brazzil
Picture

    Displaying irritation over the New York Times article in which President
    Lula’s alcohol consumption is said to be a cause of concern among the Brazilian
    population, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, avowed he
    would not admit anyone’s condemning the Brazilian government for practicing
    press censorship when it cancelled the visa of the reporter responsible for
    the article.

    "This case has nothing
    to do with freedom of expression; it has to do with a an article that is libelous,
    abusive, dishonest, and an affront to the country."

    Amorim commented that
    the article was published in the world’s largest newspaper and is detrimental
    to the country. "I don’t know whether this was the object, but it certainly
    had the effect of striking a blow against President Lula’s emergent leadership
    and Brazil itself. The individual is unfit to practice journalism," the
    Chancellor concluded.

    President Luiz Inácio
    Lula da Silva on Tuesday ordered the Ministry of Justice to take action against
    the newspaper The New York Times because of an article of May 9 by
    Larry Rohter. "Don’t ask the president to respond. The author, someone
    I do not know, and who does not know me, is probably much more worried about
    this today than I am," declared Lula, adding that what was needed was
    not a response but action.

    So, the Ministry of Justice,
    based on a law (#6.815) dating from the military dictatorship (1980), which
    deals with foreigners in the country and says that a foreigner in Brazil can
    be expelled if his presence is considered "inconvenient," has revoked
    Larry Rohter’s visa.

    One of the counsels of
    the Brazilian Press Association (Associação Brasileira de Imprensa)
    (ABI), Carlos Chagas, who is a professor of ethics, as well as a journalist,
    condemned the May 9 article in The New York Times. Chagas called the
    article an unjustified invasion of the President’s privacy, based on gossip
    and rumors.

    In testimony before the
    Economic Development Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Chagas urged the
    immediate use of Article 220 of the 1988 constitution. "The article permits
    punishment for journalistic errors, which can include fines or suspension
    of activities," explained Chagas.

    The same Chagas, however,
    wrote in his daily column in Rio’s Tribuna da Imprensa: "Who is
    losing sleep because Lula is drinking cocktails, or drinks whiskey rather
    than cachaça? The malice of the accusation made outside Brazil
    didn’t have to have been followed by the stupidity of indignation here in
    Brazil."

    Correspondents’ Indignation

    Brazil’s Association of
    Foreign Press Correspondents issued a note with regard to the Larry Rohter
    article calling the cancellation of the reporter’s visa, a violation of freedom
    of the press.

    This is the full text
    of the note:

    "Notwithstanding
    the content of the article by New York Times reporter Larry Rohter, the Association
    of Foreign Press Correspondents considers the cancellation of his visa, or
    rather, his expulsion from Brazil, a very grave act that violates the freedom
    of the press and recalls the darkest periods of the country’s history.

    We greatly lament this
    decision, which does not conform to the principles of a free and democratic
    society. We fear that this drastic attitude constitutes a warning to foreign
    correspondents that, in order to work in Brazil, they should write articles
    that please the Government."

    Getting Ready for China

    President Lula exuded
    a high level of self-esteem and lots of numbers to prove that his administration’s
    foreign policy has been successful. He met the press to talk about his upcoming
    trip to China, which begins on May 21.

    Lula called the China
    trip the crowning of a successful foreign policy that began on January 1,
    2003, when he took office. He then proceeded to review the objectives and
    results of his 22 foreign trips.

    According to Lula, the
    central objective of the government is to draw up a new geopolitical map,
    balancing out the forces of the United States, the European Union and the
    rest of the world. "One way we can make our partnerships with the US
    and the EU more flexible is to seek out additional partnerships. That makes
    us less dependent," said the President.

    The China trip is being
    called "The Great Journey" by Lula. Not only because it will bring
    together regional giants of the developing world, but two countries with coinciding
    positions on numerous issues. "We hope to make this one of the most important
    political and business trips of the government," declared Lula, as he
    announced that six ministers will also make the trip.

    The perspectives for the
    China trip are so good that, up to now, a total of 421 businessmen have signed
    to go along (the largest number of businessmen to accompany a president abroad
    up to now was 150).

    Business possibilities
    exist in tourism (the two countries will soon inaugurate direct flights),
    aerospace, manufacturing, railroads, steel and agriculture.

    Lula pointed out that
    Brazilian exports have risen almost 60 percent to countries he has visited
    since taking office—without counting China. "This is very satisfactory
    for us," said the President, adding that, in fact, exports have risen
    across the board, to every part pf the world.

    He announced that exports
    to Brazil’s neighbors in South America were up 61.5 percent. For nations in
    southern Africa, they rose over 36 percent. But it was in the Mideast that
    the return on effort has been highest: exports to the Arab world rose 63.3
    percent

    Speaking of the Arab world,
    Lula said his visit to Libya was an example of Brazilian self-esteem and foreign
    policy boldness. He pointed out that Brazilian exports to Libya had risen
    almost 110 percent since the trip and he recalled how his visit to Muammar
    Qaddafi was the subject of criticism and even jokes.

    "And then when Blair
    and Chirac visited him it was marvelous, modern, good politics," said
    Lula. "We have to be bold enough to rise above this kind of thing. Otherwise
    we will be stuck politically and economically forever in the Third World,"
    said the President.

    As for China, Lula said
    that this year is the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations and his trip
    will be the definitive consolidation of those relations. In 2003, China became
    one of Brazil’s biggest trade partners, with bilateral trade reaching US$8
    billion. Brazilian exports to China have risen from US$1.1 billion in 2001,
    to US$4.5 billion in 2003.

    In China, Lula will meet
    Chinese leaders, install a Brazil-China Business Council, inaugurate an exposition
    of Brazilian indigenous art and participate in a business seminar.


    Edla Lula works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
    of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    Translated
    from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett

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