“Hooker Scandal Topples Bolivian Government!”: The Folha Regrets The Error

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“Obviously a cheap Photoshop job,” says former Minister of Water.

Attribution to another publication … cannot serve as license to print rumors that would not meet the test of The Times’s own reporting standards. Rumors must satisfy The Times’s standard of newsworthiness, taste and plausibility before publication, even when attributed. And when the need arises to attribute, that is a good cue to consult with the department head about whether publication is warranted at all.The New York Times, Guidelines on Integrity.

It would be a journalistic and ethical step backwards for iG to modify its standards to adopt less rigorous criteria for information we (merely) publish. Or if we left the responsibility for hearing various sides of a given issue exclusively up to the service provider. The reader, quite rightly, thinks that what he reads or sees on iG comes from iG. Besides offering the service, iG makes a point of placing its branding on every page. According to the law, vehicles are responsible for what they publish. –Ombudsman, iG Web portal (Brazil); see Brazil: Did iG Piss on the Swiss?

Erramos: Escândalo sexual derruba ministro na Bolívia: The Folha de S. Paulo regrets the error in a story headlined “Sex scandal brings down Bolivian cabinet minister.”

The correction is datelined December 31, 2007.

Diferentemente do que foi publicado no texto Escândalo sexual derruba ministro na Bolívia (Mundo – 28/11/2007 – 00h51), produzido pela Efe e reproduzido pela Folha Online, os protestos mencionados eram a favor da expulsão da empresa Suez de La Paz e El Alto, e não contra. O erro foi corrigido no texto.

Unlike what was published in the Article “Sex scandal brings down cabinet minister in Bolivia” (November 28, 2007), produced by EFE and reproduced by Folha Online, the protests mention were in favor of the expulsion of Suez from La Paz e El Alto, not against it. The error was corrected in the article.


The error was corrected in the article when?

One month later?

Who made the error, by the way? A Spanish-language version I found on Terra contained the correct statement, and no correction was noted.

Then again, does Terra note corrections? The Folha does not. That is to say, there is no note on the original article stating, “this article was corrected on December 31 to correct a material misstatement.”

G1/Globo ran the same EFE dispatch on the same date, and has not yet corrected the error. It still reads

Antes de ser ministro Mamani havia liderado vários protestos contra a expulsão da empresa Suez de La Paz e El Alto, alegando o não cumprimento dos investimentos.

Do not expect it to, either. Globo does not do corrections.

Globo is never wrong.

If Globo reports the North Pole is in Antarctica, get to work redrawing those maps.

A search on that headline on the Folha Online Web site does not turn up the article in question, by the way. One might assume that it does not even exist.

However, a search on Google using the “site:[URL]” operator does locate it.

The Folha should review the performance of its Web site search provider.

The story in question:

O presidente da Bolívia, Evo Morales, empossou nesta terça-feira o novo ministro interino de Água, Walter Valda, substituto de Abel Mamani, que caiu devido ao escândalo provocado pela divulgação de fotografias nas quais ele aparece com uma mulher nua.

Bolivian president Morales swore in a new interim Minister of Water today, Walter Valda, who replaces Abel Mamani, who lost his job due to a scandal over the scandal provoked by the publication of photographs in which he appears with a naked woman.

Publication by whom?

A Government spokesman declined to state the reason for the dismissal.

How does EFE know he “fell” devido ao escândalo — assuming the Folha’s translation is faithful?

Valda era vice-ministro de Bacias. O Ministério de Água foi criado por Morales em janeiro de 2006, e era chefiado por Mamani, um ex-líder da poderosa federação de juntas da cidade de El Alto.

Valda was a vice-minister in charge of reserves. The Ministry of Water was created by Morales in January 2006 and headed by Mamani, former leader of the powerful neighborhood federations of El Alto.

O ex-ministro foi demitido horas depois de canais de televisão divulgarem fotografias nas quais ele aparece de olhos fechados, aparentemente embriagado e junto a uma mulher nua.

The former minister was fired hours after TV channels aired photos in which he appears with his eyes closed, visibly drunk and in the company of a naked woman.

Mamani disse nesta terça-feira (27) à imprensa que as imagens eram uma “montagem” e disse que havia denunciado ser vítima de uma extorsão com as fotos.

Mamani told the press today that these images were a [photomontage] and said he had filed a police complaint of extortion over the photos.

Há semanas a imprensa acusou Mamani de supostas irregularidades na gestão da empresa pública que opera o serviço de água em La Paz e El Alto, a EPSAS, que substituiu a transnacional Suez.

For months the press has been accusing Mamani of alleged irregularities in the management of the state-owned firm that provides water to La Paz and El Alto, EPSAS, which replaced the transnational Suez.

Antes de ser ministro Mamani havia liderado vários protestos a favor da expulsão da empresa Suez de La Paz e El Alto, alegando o não cumprimento dos investimentos.

Before becoming minister, Mamani had led various protests in favor of [not against] expelling Suez from the two cities, alleging that it had not made the investments promised.

O presidente Morales disse que Mamani era “um companheiro e irmão” que fez um bom trabalho ao dinamizar o Ministério de Água com muito poucos funcionários, mas que também lamentava muito as denúncias. Disse que ele tem agora a tarefa de esclarecer as acusações e destacou o trabalho da imprensa nas denúncias de suposta corrupção.

Morales said Mamani was “a comrade and a brother” who did good work creating a dynamic Ministry of Water with very few employees, but that he also lamented the accusations. He said the minister must now explain the accusations and emphasized the role of the press in charging the alleged corruption.

This is not what El Deber reported:

El presidente Evo Morales, cesó por decreto al ministro de Aguas, Abel Mamani, informó el vocero de Gobierno, Alex Contreras, sin precisar las causas de la destitución.

“… dismissed him, by decree, according to a government spokesman, without specifying the cause of the dismissal.”

I am still trying to find the statement attributed to Morales here. It may even exist.

I am telling you, Spain is a deeply dysfunctional country, and most of its journalism should generally be boiled very, very heavily, or steered clear of all together.

(Which is basically the premise of Saramago’s A Jangada de Pedra.)

Look at what happened the last time Globo and the Folha picked up a major EFE wire story and ran it without :

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“Exit polls give victory to Chávez in referendum”: The
Folha de S. Paulo front page on the day after. Also: “Corininthians [football club] banished to the second-division.” One of which is actually a reliable, and, we believe, regrettable, fact,

Another case in point:

I have quite a few Spanish friends and colleagues, so I hate to stereotype. But I think they would tend to agree with me, to an extent.

When I want news from the Iberian peninsula, there are some Portuguese agencies, including Lusa, that I much prefer.

The dispatch, as published, does not explain what connection there is, if any, between allegedly corrupt administration and getting drunk with a naked lady, or between either of those and the man’s dismissal.

Other reports that cite other causes than corruption allegations and appearing in a crudely Photoshopped hooker photo for Morales’ displeasure with the minister. Most of them hearsay, although El Alto city leaders are on the record complaining he was unresponsive to the city’s needs and said they wanted a city resident to run the water company.

The Folha should probably also issue an apology for foisting a bone-headed act of cum hoc propter hoc by running this story as well.

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Another from the Mamani portfolio: Cheap Paraguayan Photoshop job?

The real-life Mamani, with his pants on

El Tiempo ran AP copy that explained the circumstances of the broadcast and the source of the images in question, and notes the still unresolved controversy over their authenticity in a consistent manner.

It also notes inconsistencies in the story told about the provenience of the photos.

And finally, it avoids the cum hoc propter hoc implication, I think, by headlining the story “In the midst of a scandal, Manani is dismissed.”

Las fotografías fueron presentadas el lunes en la noche en el programa ”Sin Letra Chica” de la televisora PAT por el periodista Ronald Méndez, director del diario El Mundo, de la ciudad oriental de Santa Cruz.

The phots were presented on the program [CAP LOCK ON] on the PAT TV channel by journalist Ronald Méndez, director of the daily El Mundo from the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

El periodista aseguró entonces que la acompañante era una prostituta y que había enviado las fotos al presidente Morales hace 10 días, sin que hasta entonces hubiera obtenido respuesta.

The journalist stated on that broadcast that the man’s companion was a hooker and that he had sent the photos to Morales ten days earlier, without having had a reply.

Insinuó que quien distribuyó las fotografías fue el senador oficialista Omar Fernández, y que el legislador estaba interesado en el cargo de Mamani.

He insinuated that the photos were disseminated by Senator Omar Fernández, of the government bloc, who was supposedly interested in having Mamani’s job.

Pero el martes, el mismo periodista aclaró a radio Panamericana que las compró a una persona de La Paz, a la que no identificó.

On Tuesday, however, the same journalist told Radio Panamericana that he bought them from an unidentified person in La Paz.

En una de las fotografías aparece, supuestamente, Mamani con los pantalones y la ropa interior abajo abrazando y acariciando a su acompañante, que se muestra con el torso desnudo y sin pantalones.

In one of the photographs, a man who is supposedly Mamani appears with his pants and underwear lowered, embracing and caressing his female companion, who is shown with her torso naked and without pants.

I am not mistaken, some of the photos published shown the man’s scrotum, unblurred.

And there you have it: An object lesson in the difference between banana-republican journalism and non-banana-republican journalism.

The Folha has a strong tendency to publish the former, with notable exceptions from time to time and in individual cases. Which is why I never buy it.

El Tiempo has a good track record of running the former.

Let’s teach EL TIEMPO Portuguese and move it to São Paulo.

Provisional inference from the issues and events underlying the report: It sucks to be Bolivian.


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