With a Reality Like Ours Who Needs Yellow Journalism in Brazil?

    Cover of Brazilian magazine Época

    Cover of Brazilian magazine Época

    Yellow journalism in Brazil is a waste of time because reality is already
    yellow. The facts themselves provide scandalous newscasts, with no need to add
    anything. On the contrary, if the press were to dig deeper, an even uglier
    country would surface. Every day we have a new episode of somebody telling on
    somebody else.

    Who remembers Operation Hurricane, replaced on all first pages by Operation Navalha (Razor), soon followed by Operation Xeque-Mate (Checkmate)? Last week newspapers had to multi-task between the Senate President affair, Renan Calheiros, and the investigations on a brother, Genival, and a compadre (child’s godfather), Dario Morelli, of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

    By running after new accusations, journalists are always leaving a bunch of incomplete stories behind. Did last year scandals result in any sentencing? What about the year before that? Did the Federal Police add any evidence to what was submitted at the start of each scandal?

    The rare and few results we ever get are actually negative ones: the accused remain among us, carefree. Some even get elected or reelected for public office. A more thorough view of the facts from time to time would give a more complete portrait of our yellow reality.

    A portion of the news does touch on important issues, which are never reviewed to the satisfaction of readers who are a bit more curious – or a bit more anxious about the state of Brazilian politics. Who remembers the affair of the “anões do Orçamento” (budget dwarfs) in the early 1990s? It was a hefty scandal, but no mechanisms were ever created to amend the so-called budgetary process.

    Budget and Corruption

    The so-called “free portion” of the federal budget has been torn to pieces year after year by amendments approved by Congress. A significant portion of the scandals – a good example is the ambulance scandal – is related to expenditures incorporated into the bill by representatives and senators.

    There is even open talk about creating a special caucus just to deal with government contractors. But the budget itself almost never comes up as the central theme of any news story. 
    We have seen new talk about the amendment system in the last two or three weeks. Speaker of the House Arlindo Chinaglia (Workers Party, São Paulo) has announced a proposal to end all amendments brought in by congressional caucuses. On Wednesday (June 6), Minister of Institutional Affairs, Walfrido dos Mares Guia, defended automatic approval for the funds foreseen in the amendments in order to make life easier for the mayors who are entitled to the benefit.

    “The amendments issue must be discussed without prejudice”, said the Minister, quoted in O Estado de S. Paulo. “The word amendment doesn’t come with chicken-pox or corruption.”

    When congressmen take a slice out of the Budget and feed it to their own clientele, of course they are not always doing shabby tricks. They are only wasting federal money. But the association between budget amendment and corruption is not a random occurrence and it is not due to prejudice – as every one of the journalists attending that meeting knows very well.
    Run-Over Criteria 
    In spite of all that plus a bunch of other important problems, the Budget almost always appears in the news as an easily forgettable adverbial adjunctive. It is seen as an instrument or circumstance of corruption or pulverization of money, which seems to render it secondary.

    But it is not secondary. The process involved in drafting and voting a budget bill is an important component of our political system and administrative organization as a country. It has a relevant role in the history of democracies. Why not explore it, for a change, as the central theme of the reporting?

    The same question applies for other daily topics. For many months newspapers have been covering the distribution of appointed government positions to form the foundation of the administration. President Lula has divided the office of Vice President of Government and Agrobusiness at Banco do Brasil into two units so he can offer them to a PMDB loser in the last elections, former Senator Maguito Vilela, and the former Minister of Agriculture Luiz Carlos Guedes Pinto, who is PT (Workers Party).

    One of the Vice President offices of Caixa Econômica Federal was offered to PMDB’s Moreira Franco. Last week there was also talk about appointing former Congressman Paes de Andrade, the one from the Republic of Mombaça, for Caixa Econômica.

    The criteria of professional experience was been run over in other cases but, in this episode, the administration extrapolated. O Estado de S. Paulo, O Globo and Folha de S. Paulo, all featured the story, but I wonder: would not it be worth it, in this case, to look for expert opinions and make a much bigger noise?

    Rolf Kuntz is a Brazilian journalist. This article appeared originally in Portuguese in Observatório da Imprensa.

    Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a certified member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.


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