Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Brazil's press freedom

20 December 2013
Photographers taking pictures of riot police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas Protest against increase in bus fares, Sao Paulo, Brazil - 13 Jun 2013. Seven journalists of the main newspaper in Brazil, Folha de Sao Paulo, got shot with rubber bullets, two of them in the face, leaving one of them in danger of losing her sight in one eye. Photo Credit: Rex Features via AP Images

“Operation September 7” was a countrywide protest in Brazil this year, meant to voice discontent with public governance and heath and education services. Riots broke out in more than 150 cities; both police and demonstrators attacked journalists covering the protests.

Brazil’s international recognition is on the rise. No country has ever been asked to host the world’s two biggest sporting events in such quick succession: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazil has undoubted potential and resources to become a leading global player. Yet, the nation’s government corruption and its judicial lenience on criminals of high political standing have prohibited other democracies from taking it seriously.

Brazil’s dirty politicians need support to continue to hold office and prove their leadership position is earned and valid. So, the country’s wealthy, big landowners manufacture this support. These individuals reside as the kings of their states, usually have direct control of politics, even if they do not directly exercise decisive power themselves. They usually are a local or federal parliamentarian or a powerful industrialist, and most importantly, own a media outlet.

“The federal communication minister Paulo Bernardo, recently said it is easer to remove the president in Brazil than to withdraw a broadcast frequency from any politician, and this is still true,” said Eugenio Bucci, a São Paulo university professor and regular columnist for the daily O Estado de São Paulo and the magazine Época. He said that there are an excessive number of parliamentarians, senators, deputies, governors and ministers who are in positions of direct influence of a news outlet, but are not openly its owner.

“Do you know any democratic countries where politicians own as many news outlets and at the same time have the power to allocate the very broadcast frequencies and state concessions of which they themselves are the recipient?” Bucci said.

In effect, these politicians as well as governments, ministries and state-owned companies and agencies, such as the national oil company Petrobras and the Banco do Brasil, are paying a high price to be supported and promoted by the media, according to Reporters Without Borders. While the big media groups – Folha, Estado and Globo – would survive, this money entirely funds the average, medium-sized media outlets.

The Independence Day attacks were uncalled for, but validate public outcry against the nation’s failing media system. Eleven journalists were killed in 2012. Five of which were, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, murdered in direct connection to their work, making Brazil the fifth deadliest country in the world for the media. Furthermore Brazil ranks eleventh on CPJ’s impunity index, for surging violence against the press and the government’s inability to investigate the crimes.

Reporters suffer both strangling monetary control and crippling freedom as a result of government politicians; a press freedom issue that’s entirely dependent on a broken system.

By Clare Murphy. 

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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