Brazil: Who Is a Journalist? New Cases in Point

Barbon of Porto Ferreira, rural São Paulo. If journalists without college degrees are not real journalists, then the fact that the diplomaless Barbon was assassinated because of reporting he published does not count as the murder of a journalist. Or so the Brazilian national union for journalists reasoned. Just makes you want to break out into a rousing chorus of “Solidarity Forever,” don’t it?

The Brazilian journalist does not feel free to write. More than just having to follow the editorial line of the publications they work for, the complaints principally have to do with coercion by political and business groups.“A Profile of the Brazilian Journalist.” (That article no longer appears on the Grupo Abril Web site last time I checked, by the way.)

Can anyone be a journalist in Brazil? See also

It’s a complicated question. Cases of persons being arrested for practicing journalism without a license still crop up here, citing dictatorship-era press and labor laws, for example.

And when a rural journalist was assassinated recently — his exposé on local elected officials involved in child prostitution led to the conviction of several of them, one of whom was reelected while doing time for child-fucking — the national journalists union, FENAJ, argued that it was none of its business because the man was technically speaking not a journalist.

Which just blew my mind. See also

This could at some point matter to me personally.

For one thing, I have been blogging the Brazilian press in translation from Brooklyn for several years now, or while in Brazil as a tourist. I do not make a living at it, or sell advertising or pursue any other commercial ends, except insofar as these jotting constitutes a sort of daily personal training session in translation, which is my principal profession these days.

It will take a while for me to get cleared to work in Brazil, once I am here on a permanent resident status. One career option for me is to seek work as a reporter or editor for a foreign news organization, but that requires sponsorship by an accredited commercial news organization, as I understand it.

I tend to assume that the Brazilian Constitution, with its First Amendment-analogous provisions on freedom of speech as a universal right of naked apes, has me covered. But does it? See, for example

Consultor Jurídico noted another case in point a week or so ago.

O jornalista precisa comprovar que preenche as formalidades que a profissão exige para conseguir na Justiça o carimbo de emprego na carteira de trabalho. Sem diploma de curso superior em Comunicação Social e registro do Ministério do Trabalho, o jornalista não consegue no Tribunal Superior do Trabalho o reconhecimento do vínculo empregatício.

Journalists must prove they have satisifed the formalities that the profession demands in order to petition a court for formal employment as a journalist. Absent a college degree in Social Communications and registration with the Ministry of Labor, the labor relations courts will not officially recognize employment as a journalist.

Voting reforms of the labor laws — a common kvetch by foreign investors — is one more item being pushed down the legislative agenda by the hysterical borking of the sex senator.

A decisão foi tomada pela 3ª Turma do TST, no dia 29 de agosto, que não aceitou Recurso de Revista de uma ex-empregada da produtora X-Virtual que pedia reconhecimento de vínculo na condição de jornalista. O relator da matéria foi o ministro Carlos Alberto Reis de Paula.

That ruling was handed down by the federal labor relations tribunal on August 29, turning down a petition for judicial review from a former employee of the X-Virtual production company, who was asking that she be recognized as being formally employed as a journalist.

Remember, in Brazil, public relations professionals and information services professionals are both classified as “journalists.” Which is, of course, a hard concept to get your head around.

A trabalhadora foi admitida sem registro na carteira em abril de 2002. Ela recebia os salários por nota fiscal como se fosse uma prestadora de serviço. No entanto, a empregada não possuía uma empresa. O pagamento era feito por uma outra companhia intermediária que fazia o mesmo negócio para outros trabalhadores da empresa. Na Justiça do Trabalho, não há dúvida de que o método não passa de uma fraude. Em 2004, a produtora ficou sem dinheiro e parou de pagar os salários.

The worker was hired informally in April 2002. She got paid by submitting invoices as if she were an outside contractor. However, the employee did not have a firm of her own. She was paid by a third-party intermediary that provided the same service for other workers at X-Virtual. In the labor relations tribunal, there was no doubt but that this method is utterly fraudulent. In 2004, the production company ran out of money and stopped paying its workers.

A empregada fazia o trabalho de repórter e editora de programas de turismo que eram vinculados em um canal de TV a cabo. Ela conta que participava de todas as etapas de produção. Na reclamação, pediu reconhecimento de vínculo empregatício, reajustes salariais de jornalistas, horas extras além da quinta diária (a legislação prevê que a jornada é de cinco horas diárias para jornalista), indenização por danos morais pelo uso de sua imagem em material promocional e rescisão indireta do contrato de trabalho.

The employee worked as a reporter and editor on tourism programming for a cable TV channel. She says she worked on all stages of production. In her complaint, she asked that she be recognized as an employee and requested she receive salary adjustments for having done a journalist’s job, along with overtime and “fifth day” salary (the law provides for a five-hour working day for journalists), compensation for the use of her image in promotional materials, and [technical law thing I need to look up] …

A empresa afirmou que a jornalista era “mera prestadora de serviços”. Sobre as diferenças salariais, alegou que a repórter, “em nenhum momento, juntou aos autos sua carteira profissional registrada no Ministério do Trabalho e exigida pela Federação Nacional dos Jornalistas para o exercício da profissão”.

The company said she was a mere “service provider.” On the difference in wages, it alleged that the reporter “at no time presented her formal registration with the Ministry of Labor, as required by FENAJ, permitting her to exercise the profession.”

Of my college friends who became professional journalists — some for big national news operations — the vast majority majored in some liberal arts subject and never set foot in a J-school.

A the one exception I can think of, who the last time I saw her was a night-shift desk editor for a newswire, said later that going to J-school was a total waste of time, in terms of advancing in career.

How long does it take to absorb the Five Ws principle, anyway?

You learn by starting out on the police blotter and getting viciously blue-penciled by your editor, day after day. The better you get, the less blue pencil appears on your copy, until one day they move you to city hall, or some other less rudimentary beat. And off you go.

My second career as a journeyman copydesker? I simply got a copy of all the style manuals in current standard use, taught myself how to do the work until I was able to pass house editing tests, and started getting jobs.

I took a couple of good seminars at continuing educations centers for publishing, including the excellent one at NYU.

Where the assassinated Anya used to teach, in fact.

I met the woman. Russian mobsters later rubbed her out. Fuck.

O juiz da 51ª Vara do Trabalho de São Paulo converteu então o julgamento em diligência. Deu prazo de dois dias para que a trabalhadora trouxesse cópia do diploma e do registro no Ministério.

[The court gave her two days to get her documents together.]

No entanto, ao entregar os documentos, o juiz constatou que, embora tivesse se formado em 2002, a universidade não havia providenciado a emissão do diploma no Ministério da Educação. Diante deste erro burocrático da escola, o pedido da trabalhadora foi julgado improcedente. A decisão foi mantida pelo Tribunal Regional do Trabalho de São Paulo.

However, when she turned those documents in, the judge noted that although she did graduate in 2002, the university had not reported issuing her a diploma to the Ministry of Education. Given this bureaucratic error on the part of the university, her petition was denied. The decision was upheld on appeal by the regional labor relations tribunal in São Paulo.


A pretty typical encounter with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy they have down here.

The woman apparently complied with the spirit of the law. But was hosed because a third party failed to comply with the letter of the law on her behalf. A third party she paid good money to for “all the rights and privileges appurtaining thereto.”

No recurso de revista ao TST, a repórter alegou que o Decreto Lei 972/69, que regulamenta o exercício da função de jornalista, seria inconstitucional porque cercearia a “liberdade de expressão da atividade intelectual, artística, científica e de comunicação, independentemente de censura ou licença”.

In her appeal to the TST, the reporter alleged that Decree No. 972 of 1969 [the infamous “Press Law,” I think that is], which regulates the exercise of the profession of journalism, is inconstitutional because it would put limits on “the freedom of expression in intellectual, artistic, scientific and communications endeavors, without censorship or licensing requirements.”

Decreed by a generalíssimo, that is.

O ministro Carlos Alberto explicou que, apesar das várias modificações introduzidas no decreto de 69, a obrigatoriedade do MTB e do diploma foi mantida. “Conforme o exposto no acórdão regional, não há como se reconhecer a condição de jornalista porque a reclamante não preenche nenhum dos requisitos para o exercício da profissão regulamentada”, ressaltou.

Justice Alberto explained that, despite various amendments to the 1969 decree, the obligatory nature of a diploma and registration the Labor Ministry was maintained. …

“O fato de a trabalhadora ter exercido funções compatíveis com a de jornalista profissional, por si só, não dá ensejo à procedência”, entendeu o ministro. Carlos Alberto destacou que o princípio da primazia da realidade sobre a forma não tem aplicação porque “a forma é imperativo da lei e, portanto, essência do ato”.

“The fact that she performed work compatible with the work performed by professional journalists does not, in itself, validate her claim,” the justice ruled. Alberto emphasized that the principle of [legal mumbo jumbo I need to look up in a good law dictionary, now where did I put that?] is not relevant because, “[legal mumbo jumbo].”

A obrigatoriedade do diploma para o exercício da profissão de jornalista suscita debates acalorados. A questão fica ainda mais confusa com as decisões divergentes entre os tribunais superiores e instâncias inferiores.

The diploma requirement is the subject of heated debate. The issue gets even more confused because of divergences among lower and superior courts.

Em abril deste ano, a 1ª Seção do Superior Tribunal de Justiça entendeu que é preciso de diploma para se ter um registro no Ministério do Trabalho. Um trabalhador tinha reclamado de ato do ministro do Trabalho. Por meio da Portaria 3/06, ele declarou a invalidade dos registros de jornalistas feitos com base na decisão da 16ª Vara da Seção Judiciária de São Paulo, que entendeu não ser necessário o diploma. Mais tarde, o Tribunal Regional Federal da 3ª Região mudou o entendimento. Por isso, a portaria foi editada.

In April of this year, the labor tribunal ruled that a diploma is required in order to register as a journalist with the Ministry of Labor. A worker had appealed an order issued by the labor minister, who, in Order No. 3/06, declared invalid the registrations of journalists based on a decision by a São Paulo court that ruled a diploma was not necessary. Later, the [federal district court] altered this finding, and the order was amended as a result.

O imbróglio começou em outubro de 2001 quando o Ministério Público Federal entrou com ação contra o diploma de jornalista. No dia 23 de outubro de 2001, por decisão liminar, foi suspensa a exigência.

The imbroglio started in October 2001 when the federal prosecutor filed lawsuit against the diploma requirement. On October 23, 2001, the requirement was suspended.

Recorreram contra a sentença a União, a Federação Nacional dos Jornalistas (Fenaj) e o Sindicato dos Jornalistas Profissionais de São Paulo. Em outubro de 2005, a 4ª Turma do TRF da 3ª Região entendeu que o diploma é necessário. Então, o MPF entrou com Recurso Extraordinário no STF e, em seguida, com a Ação Cautelar para garantir o exercício da profissão por quem não tem diploma até que o tema seja definido pelo Supremo.

FENAJ and the São Paulo Union of Professional Journalists appealed. In October 2005, a [federal district court] ruled that a diploma was necessary. The federal attorney appealed to the Supreme Court and also requested an interim finding to guarantee that those without a diploma could continue to work as journalists until the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.

Segundo o MP, o decreto de 1969 vai de encontro com o artigo 5º da Constituição de 88 que garante a liberdade de expressão.

According to the federal attorney, the 1969 decree violates Article 5 of the 1988 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

There is a theory afoot according to which freedom of expression belongs to the owner of the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone, not to the people who talk over it.

No Supremo Tribunal Federal, os defensores do diploma de jornalismo perderam um ponto. No mês de novembro do ano passado, o ministro Gilmar Mendes garantiu o exercício de atividade jornalística aos que atuam na profissão independentemente de registro no Ministério do Trabalho ou de diploma de curso superior na área. A decisão, referendada pela 2ª Turma do STF, foi tomada em Ação Cautelar.

In the Supreme Court, those who defended the diploma requirement lost a point. In November 2006, Justice Mendes guaranteed the right to work as a journalist even without a Labor Ministry registration or college degree. That finding was endorsed by the Second Chamber, which issued the interim order.

Gilmar Mendes acolheu os argumentos da Procuradoria-Geral da República de que a decisão cautelar é necessária para “evitar a ocorrência de graves prejuízos àqueles indivíduos que estavam exercendo a atividade jornalística, independentemente de registro no Ministério do Trabalho ou de diploma de curso superior específico”. A decisão é válida até o julgamento do Recurso Extraordinário que definirá a questão.

Mendes accepted the argument by the federal attorney general that the interim order was necessary in order to “avoid serious harm to individuals engaged in journalistic activity without registration or a diploma.” The decision is valid until the appeal is finally ruled on by the Supreme Court.

De acordo com o ministro, o Recurso Extraordinário discute matéria de “indubitável relevância constitucional”, especificamente a interpretação do artigo 5º, inciso XIII, da Constituição, que dispõe: “é livre o exercício de qualquer trabalho, ofício ou profissão, atendidas as qualificações profissionais que a lei estabelecer”.

According to Mendes, the appeal deals with an issue that “clearly has constitutional implications,” more specifically the interpretation of Article 5, Clause XIII, which provides: “The exercise of any work, office or profession shall be free so long as the professional qualifications established by law are complied with.”

Not anyone can be a brain surgeon. The AMA needs to say they can be. But journalism is not brain surgery.

O ministro ressaltou que o tema também discute a interpretação do dispositivo que estabelece que “a manifestação do pensamento, a criação, a expressão e a informação, sob qualquer forma, processo ou veículo, não sofrerão qualquer restrição, observado o disposto nesta Constituição”, garantindo a plena liberdade de informação jornalística em qualquer veículo de comunicação social.

The minister observed that the issue also involves interpreting the provision according to which “the manifestation of thought, creative activity, self-expression, and information, in any form, process, or medium, shall not suffer any restriction except as provided for in this Constitution,” which guarantees complete freedom of journalistic information in any vehicle of social communication.

I should hope so.

The issue is not unique to Brazil, either.

Did you notice how, for example, when the New York Times reported on employees and contractors killed in Iraq earlier this year, it pointedly referred to the death of “journalists and media workers.”

“Media workers?”

What in the hell is a “media worker”?

Some international bodies for the protection of journalists engage in similar logic-chopping in order to exclude non-journalist “media workers” from their body counts.

Which pisses me off no end. Everytime a Reuters stringer gets blow up in Iraq, for example.

This was the guy pointing the camera at the actual stuff that was happening.

But he or she is not a professional gatherer of information.

Not for the purposes of calculating salary and benefits, or determining the employer’s liability if that person gets blown up by assassins for doing what their employer pays them to do.

But the blow-dried teleprompter monkey back in the studio is.

The New York Times apparently now slants its news reporting in order to promote its own labor relations philosophy.

What the hell is wrong with those people?


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