“Media And Violence: New Trends In the Coverage of Crime and Security In Brazil”

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In some cases the sensationalist press wound up simply fabricating supposedly dangerous bandits to be duly pursued by police. Among innumerable examples, we can cite David Nasser of the program “Diary of a Reporter,” who called members of the death squad “… the missionaries of General Franca” (then state public security secretary), the “public-works contractors of God.”Red Rosa, the PR representative of the Rio death squad, once phoned a newsroom in order to announce the weekly death toll and confessed as follows: “I get an almost sexual pleasure from watching the bullets pierce the bodies of the criminals and the blood flowing like a red rose flowering out of the earth.” —“A History of Death Squads in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo”

The articles analyzed in the study on which this book was based reveal coverage that focuses closely on specific incidents, very few of which represent initiative on the part of the press itself. Add to that the observations that analytic articles, which treat the issue of public security in Brazil more comprehensively, are still a minority in the print media. —Paulo Vannuchi

The Observatório de Favelas do Rio de Janeiro announces

Dia 29 de outubro será lançado, no CESeC, no Rio de Janeiro, o livro Mídia e Violência: Novas tendências na cobertura de criminalidade e segurança no Brasil. O livro é resultado de três anos de monitoramento de diversos jornais brasileiros, análise de mais de 5 mil textos e a realização de 90 entrevistas – 64 com jornalistas e 26 com especialistas da área de segurança pública.

On October 20, at CESeC in Rio, the book “Media And Violence: New Trends In the Coverage of Crime and Security In Brazil” will be launched. The book is the result of three years of monitoring a number of Brazilian newspapers, analysis of more than 5,000+ articles, and 90 interviews — 64 with journalists and 26 with specialists in the area of public security.

What, no readers or subjects of coverage? Police? Criminal defendants? Public defenders? Prosecutors? Victims of crimes that become hysterical causes célèbres? Residents of off-the-grid communities? Only Brazilian journalists are competent to debate whether the product they offer the public is actually useful to the public or not? The end user gets no say? The paternalistic elitism of these people really needs taking down a peg or two, I tend to think.

Apresentado pela cientista social Silvia Ramos e pela jornalista Anabela Paiva, o livro discute a cobertura jornalística da criminalidade e da segurança pública, apresentam soluções adotadas pela imprensa ao lidar com as dificuldades cotidianas e contam os bastidores de grandes reportagens.

Presented by social scientist Silvia Ramos and journalist Anabela Paiva, the books discusses journalistic coverage on crime and public safety, presents solutions adopted by the press to deal with day to day challenges, and provides “behind the scenes” accounts of major stories.

I personally have not noted much of a decrease, if any, in the tendency of the Brazilian press to refer to every alleged criminal suspect as a “bandit” or a “marginal.”

Or to rely almost entirely on official police sources in reporting on crime.

(“No one killed was innocent.” Things like that. The book addresses that squarely, but its preface does not seem to consider that as much of a factor in judging, cheerfully, that Brazilian law enforcement journalist has made a lot of progress. It cites the demise of a handful of programs that promote vigilantism, but glosses over the fact that such programming — Brasil Urgente, for example, or Balanço Geral — is still highly visible, for example.)

Or the instinct of the Brazilian press to dramatize its own supposed prowess in the production of grandes reportagens, as is often the case on Globo’s Profession: Reporter. The ratio of “behind the music coverage” of the press covering the press covering the press to straight reporting seems awfully inflated to me. See, for example,

Brazilian journalism tends to suffer from (1) a surfeit of “legend in their own minds” celebrity-journalists angling for the grande reportagem — the dramatic scoop, the breathless scandal-driven exposé based more on the rhetoric of hysterical virginity than on a sober exposition of the due process of law and the rules of evidence — and (2) a short, short supply of beat-reporting foot soldiers out there doing the bucket-work day to day, double-checking the spreadsheets, spelling the names right, and tracking the story forever and day, if need be, until at last something is revealed.

The funky regional press also seems to be left out of the picture, with the focus falling mainly on the metro dailies. And what about radio and TV audiences? Those media doubtless have far more of a social impact than newspapers and magazines.

A pesquisa realizada pelo Centro de Estudos de Segurança e Cidadania (CESeC), da Universidade Candido Mendes, é uma iniciativa da Secretaria Especial dos Direitos Humanos e faz parte do Programa de Apoio a Ouvidorias de Polícia e Policiamento Comunitário, financiado com recursos da União Européia. O livro, resultado da pesquisa, será distribuído gratuitamente em universidades, centros de estudos e especialistas da área, com o objetivo de fomentar mais discussões sobre o assunto.

The study, conducted by the Center for the Study of Security and Citizenship (CESeC) at Cândido Mendes University, is an initiative of the Special Secretary for Human Rights [Federal or state? Federal.] and is part of the Program in Support of Police Ombudsmen and Community Policing, financed with resources from the European Union.

And the Ford Foundation.

The book, a result of the study, will be distributed free of charge to universities, research centers and specialists in the area, with the objective of fomenting more debates on the subject.

I would have preferred, rather than a “based on” book, a standard statement of results, with scholarly apparatus. The book is not rigorously sourced.

Still, send me a copy. I would also gladly pay for a copy. Where do I send my box-tops to?

Oh, wait: You can download the book as a PDF file, in the RAR compression format.

Reading. With great interest.

And some nitpicking concerns, of course, especially about sourcing.

This, for example, on “resistance, followed by death,” from the book’s preface:

Em 2005, a polícia do Rio de Janeiro matou, em ação, legalmente, 1.098 pessoas. A de São Paulo matou 300 pessoas.

In 2005, Rio police killed 1,098 persons, legally, in action. In São Paulo, 300.

Those numbers are not sourced. I mention it because those numbers are controversial, and because the numbers for São Paulo seem especially problematic. See, for example,

As Julio Mesquita Neto of USP and Colombia, in an article for the Folha de S. Paulo back in February, the official number for 2005 was 300.

But the actual number was 469 — and does not break down quite so easily into “legal” and “illegal” killings, given cases in which off-duty police officers, for example, are exonerated under the “resistance, followed by death” rationale.

But why would an academic study of media coverage, published in 2007, use the numbers for 2005 rather than for 2006? And state the official number, without sourcing it?

Chapter 8 of the book: “Public safety statistics: What they are good for and how to use them.”

Tip: Boil before consuming. Corroborate from critical independent sources. Which is something the book preaches but does not always practice.

How many persons were killed by police in 2006? According to data released to the press, 533. Why was that number so much larger than the deaths registered in 2005 (300)? The secretary, without mentioning the PCC attacks and police reprisals of 2006, notes merely that the 2005 number was the lowest in recent years.

As it turns out, that figure of 533 (or 542, according to data published in the Official Diary) is the number of persons killed by on-duty police, and is confined to deaths registered under the heading “resistance followed by death.” The number does not include deaths in cases of “resistance followed by death” involving off-duty police officers. Nor does it include the number of persons killed by police officers, off-duty and on-, in cases filed under “wrongful death” or “culpable homicide.”

The total number of persons killed by on-duty and off-duty police in 2006 was 708 (33% larger than the secretary’s figure): 570 registered as “resistance followed by death” and 138 registered as “homicide,” negligent or deliberate. In 2005, the total number of persons killed by police was 469 (56% more than the 300 deaths disclosed by the secretary). That is more than the number of persons killed by police in all the other Brazilian states combined, which has not surpassed 400 since 1995.

If 2005 was the year with “the least number of deaths at the hands of police in recent years,” this is due to the fact that, starting in 2000, with peaks in 2002 and 2003, there was a dramatic increase in the number of persons killed by police compared with the 1990s. In 2003, 975 persons were killed by police in the state of São Paulo, a figure exceeded only by the numbers for 1991 (1,086) and 1992 (1,458).

Starting in 2000, social violence and violence against police declined. So why did police violence not also decline? Why were 705 people killed by police in São Paulo in 2006 alone? To what extent is police violence correlated with levels of social violence and violence against police? With government policy? With the leadership of police forces? With internal and external controls on police conduct?

Lots of very good debates and anecdotes here (judging from my first quick skim).

I really appreciate this. Marcelo Beraba, the predecessor of Mario Magalhães as the Folha ombudsman, has a lot of very judicious input, as always. And the depoimentos of Globo journalists provide a clearer X-ray of the prevailing mentality at the Vênus Platinada.

On the authors:

Anabela Paiva – Jornalista, trabalhou nas revistas Veja, Época, Isto É e Caras. No Jornal do Brasil, foi repórter de Cidade, subeditora do Informe JB e editora do Caderno B. Foi editora de Cidade do jornal tablóide Q!. Fez parte da equipe que formou o site www.no.com. É professora licenciada da PUC-RJ. Desenvolve projetos de consultoria em comunicação e coordena, com Silvia Ramos, o monitoramento de notícias sobre segurança e criminalidade realizado pelo CESeC desde 2004.

… Works on projects in communications consulting and coordinates, with Silvia Ramos, the news monitoring on crime and security carried out by CESeC since 2004.

Consulting projects for what clients?

No.com is an empty domain squatted by link farmers inviting you to visit beautiful Norway. I think the reference is to the late, great No. (“Number”) online magazine, which used to live at no.com.br. (Did that have something to do with the likewise late, great, and greatly lamented no mínimo? I forget. I think so. The participation of Tutty Vasquez in both, for example …)

Silvia Ramos – Cientista social e pesquisadora do Centro de Estudos de Segurança e Cidadania da Universidade Candido Mendes (CESeC-Ucam), coordena projetos sobre Mídia, Juventude, e Diversidade sexual e Direitos. É autora do livro Elemento suspeito — abordagem policial e discriminação na cidade do Rio de Janeiro, em parceria com Leonarda Musumeci, lançado pela Civilização Brasileira.

The preface is from the federal human rights commissioner, Mr.

As matérias analisadas na pesquisa que embasou o livro revelam uma cobertura muito focada em episódios factuais e com baixo percentual de iniciativa da própria imprensa. Soma-se a isso a constatação de que os textos analíticos, com abordagem mais abrangente sobre a situação da segurança pública no Brasil, ainda são minoria nos veículos impressos.
The articles analyzed in the study on which this book was based reveal coverage that focuses closely on specific incidents, very few of which represent initiative on the part of the press itself. Add to that the observations that analytic articles, which treat the issue of public security in Brazil more comprehensively, are still a minority in the print media.

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