“Why It Sucks to Be a Brazilian Journalist”

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Eros “Cupid” Grau to Lewandoski: “Did you see that the military police invaded the law school at USP?” “No, I didn’t see that.” “A lamentable thing.” O Globo defended intruding upon the private deliberations of Supreme Court justices by invoking the value of “democratic transparency.”

As long as it is believed that representatives should be accountable, then there are clear advantages to having them deliberate in public, but as long as it is also believed that representatives should exercise a degree of independent judgement in making decisions, then transparency can also have costs … recent discussions of transparency in government have often overlooked the fact that it can have both costs and benefits. –David Stasavage, “Public versus Private Deliberation in a Representative Democracy”

You can be aggressive in hunting down news, that’s one thing. It is quite another thing to be agressive in a way that disrespects authority. You must not let your authority be disrespected. … In those who have authority, that authority is intrinsic, it is innate. … if you do not respect yourself, journalist will not respect you, just as no one at home will respect you. A single look can generally resolve half such problems. The way you look at them when you answer, and the journalist will not persist in posing a disrespectful question.Antônio Carlos Magalhães

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 or business groups. —“A Profile of the Brazilian Journalist”

Or worse.

NA HORA (Brazil) cuts and pastes a Contas Abertas (“Open Accounts”) gisting of the results of a report by a U.K. group called Article 19 on, basically, why it sucks to be a Brazilian journalist.

Which actually tends to corroborate what my own network of private informants tell me, by the way. That it pretty much sucks to be a Brazilian journalist.

Article 19’s major financial supporters (2005 financials):

  • UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Open Society Foundation (Soros)
  • UNESCO
  • Ford Foundation
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

Call it a follow-up to

Short, selected list of reasons why

  1. The zombie Press Law of 1967, with those draconian desacato [“respect my authority!”] provisions
  2. SLAPP suits
  3. Physical, psychological and economic pressure
  4. Concentrated media ownership

Principal funders of Contas Abertas, meanwhile: ironically, that seems to be very, very difficult to know. Last I checked, you have to go to a cartório in Brasília and ask for a pile of paper, referenced by a very long serial number.

A organização elencou outros cinco itens que merecem mais atenção por parte da imprensa, do governo e da sociedade brasileira. Entre os dados mais alarmantes está a enorme quantidade de processos indenizatórios contra jornalistas por parte de políticos e juízes denunciados por corrupção. Segundo o documento, advogados e jornalistas estimam que, em média, exista uma ação indenizatória contra cada um dos jornalistas que trabalham nos cinco principais veículos de comunicação do Brasil.

The organization listed another five items that deserve more attention by the press, government and society in Brazil. Among the most alarming data is the enormous quantity of lawsuits for damages filed against journalists by politicians and judges who are accused of corruption. According to the document, lawyers and journalists estimate that, on average, there is a lawsuit for damages against every single journalist who works for one of the five principal news organizations in Brazil.

On the other hand, there do seem to be cases of Brazilian journalists who do knowingly print baseless assertions of demonstrably nonexistent facts about public figures — that “engage in gabbling ratfinks while screaming hysterically over the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone,” as we like to call such tactics — and end up on the wrong end of civil libel judgments.

Are we sorting those into a separate pile?

Are we differentiating the Woodsteins from the J.J. Rendóns and Diogo Mainardis of the world?

Or are we lumping them in together with those retrograde honor-law and desacato sorts of cases?

There is a theory afoot whereby we are to believe that there is no such difference, really. In the vast scheme of things.

But the people who propagate it tend to be gabbling Moonies.

Because there is a notable tendency down here to scumble the difference between civil libel — knowingly printing or airing gabbling lies, as RCTV in Venezuela does, for example — and borking based on the Nietzschean will to power — an Eric Cartman-like demand that authority be respected, no matter what.

O valor gasto com indenizações deste tipo este ano já estava em R$ 80.000, enquanto em 2003 ele somou apenas R$ 20.000. A imprensa atribui este número, em parte, a má preparação de alguns jornalistas, mas considera que a maior parcela dessas cobranças é resultante de “abuso de poder”. Como parâmetro para confirmar tal abuso, o relatório mostra que 80% das decisões consideradas procedentes em instâncias inferiores são revogadas quando chegam ao STF (Supremo Tribunal Federal) o que, segundo a Article 19, evidencia uma possível pressão realizada sobre os juízes locais ou um baixo conhecimento das normas relacionadas à liberdade de expressão.

The amount spent on settlements of this type this year has reached R$80,000 ($40,000), while in 2003 it was only R$20,000 ($10,000).

Please.

Globo spends R$80,000 catering the set of “Tropical Paradise” for a week.

That’s probably like 30 seconds of advertising time during the championship match of the Brasileirão — which Dualib is now saying our local Manchester United, Corinthians, was robbed of a couple of years back by crooked officiating.

And what about the number of cases, by the way?

Because Mainardi’s recently civil libel judgments alone would seem to exceed that amount, if my mental arithemetic is still working properly.

Outro ponto de destaque relacionado aos jornalistas, está na quantidade de violências físicas e psicológicas a que os profissionais da mídia ainda são submetidos no Brasil. A organização encontrou uma divergência entre os dados da ANJ (Associação Nacional de Jornais) que indica apenas oito casos de ataques à liberdade de expressão em 2006, ao passo que a FENAJ (Federação Nacional de Jornalistas) computou 68 casos no mesmo período.

Another point regarding journalists underscored by the report is the incidence of physical and psychological aggression to which media professionals are subjected in Brazil. The organization found a divergence between the National Newspaper Association (ANJ), which indicates only 8 cases of attacks on freedom of the press in 2006, while FENAJ, the national union for journalists, calculated 68 cases in the same period.

This is not merely a Brazilian phenomenon, either.

Some international organizations for the “protection of journalists” have taken, for example, to classifying some journalists as mere “media workers” — and leaving them out of the statistics of journalistic corpses.

In other words: The poor local freelancer, out in the field pointing the camera at the actual shit that’s going down, is not a “journalist.”

While the gabbling, blow-dried Teleprompter monkey in the studio is.

On the (very judicious, I thought) attitude taken by Reuter’s new global editor in chief on that question, for example, see

As he noted:

The Brussels’-based International News Safety Institute, of which I’m a board member, on Tuesday called 2006 “the worst year on record for news media casualties”. It counted a total of 167 journalists and support staff who died trying to cover the news in 37 countries in 2006. As an organization that focuses on safety, INSI counts all deaths, including accidents.

But:

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which Reuters also supports, said 55 journalists were killed in direct connection to their work in 2006, and it is investigating another 27 deaths to determine whether they were work-related. The CPJ, which focuses on press freedom issues, doesn’t include accidental deaths or count support staff, which is why its numbers are lower than other tallies.

Define “support staff.”

If they see you have a press pass, and that is why they shoot you, but your job title does not include the word “journalist” so that your employer does not have to offer you benefits — or else, technically speaking, you were not actually working at the moment some guy shoves a gun in your face and tells you to lay off, or else — then you do not count as a victim of attacks on the freedom of the press.

Which I find to be just unconscionably and indefensibly and grotesquely nonsensical.

A ONG recomendou a criação de um programa de proteção à testemunha – jornalistas e denunciantes – e incentivou a denúncia de qualquer ameaça ou repressão, considerada fundamental para que o combate a esta prática seja eficaz. Para os jornalistas escutados na pesquisa, a maior parte das agressões surgem de políticos, traficantes ou policiais corruptos e o número de abusos só não é maior devido à auto-censura já instituída nos órgãos de imprensa.

The NGO recommended the creation of a witness protection program — for journalists and whistleblowers — and encouraged journalists to denounce any threat or reprisals, which is considered fundamental to an effective fight against

What if the threats and reprisals come from your boss, though? See, for example,

A democratização dos meios de comunicação foi outro aspecto que recebeu destaque. Tanto no que tange à concentração dos veículos de comunicação, quanto ao péssimo e demorado processo de concessão de licenças para rádios comunitárias no Brasil. O relatório também critica a ausência de um canal público, que o governo afirmou criar ainda este ano, e a ausência de políticas que incentivem o desenvolvimento de veículos independentes.

The democratization of the media is another issue getting prominent play with respect to both the concentration of media ownership and the pessimissm over and the unwieldy concessions process for, community radio stations in Brazil. The report also criticizes the absence of a public channel, which the government said it would create this year, and the absence of policies that stimulate the development of independent media companies.

Segundo dados mostrados na pesquisa, apenas seis veículos comandam o mercado de TV no Brasil. Eles movimentam três bilhões de dólares por ano, sendo que, deste valor, a Rede Globo é responsável por mais da metade. Entre as soluções propostas pela ONG, no intuito de mudar esse quadro, estão a complementariedade dos setores público, privado e comunitário, a valorização da diversidade no processo de concessão de licenças e a adoção de regras claras e justas para a proteção do interesse público na radiodifusão.

According to data from the survey, only six media groups control the TV market in Brazil.

You don’t say?

Stop the presses!

They bring in $3 billion a year, of which sum Globo is responsible for more than half. Among the solutions the NGO proposes, for the purpose of changing this scenario, is creating complementary roles for the public, private and community sectors, the promotion of diversity in the process of granting broadcast concesions, and the adoption of clear rules for protecting the public interest in broadcasting.

A Article 19 elogiou, contudo, a forte atuação da sociedade civil brasileira no sentido de dar maior transparência às informações pública, por meio de campanhas e criação de ONGs. A organização internacional também ressaltou a iniciativa do governo de manter e aprimorar o Sistema Integrado de Administração Financeira ( SIAFI) com o objetivo de aumentar a transparência dos gastos dos diversos órgãos da administração pública federal, o que, segundo a organização, pode ser um facilitador do acompanhamento da execução das políticas públicas e do combate à corrupção.

Article 19, however, praise the strong push by Brazilian civil society toward greater transparency in public information, through the organization of campaigns and the creation of NGOs.

NGOs like Contas Abertas, you mean?

About whose funding it is very, very difficult to find out any information?

The international organization also emphasized the government’s initiative to maintain and improve the SIAFI system — the integrated system of financial management — with the objective of making federal government expenditures more transparent, which it says could serve to facilitate public oversight of the execution of public policies and combat corruption.

On the issue of public access to the SIAFI system, see also

Next step: Actually read the Article 19 report and see if it says what Contas Abertas says it says.

Not that I am implying that those people are a bunch of shady spin-doctors, mind you. I just happen to be a dedicated praticioner of the Reagan Principle: “Trust, but verify.”

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