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Brazzil - Media - August 2004

Brazil's Bugland, a No-Man's Land

In Brazil's Republic of Bugland anything-goes rules. The whistle
blowers of scandals don't run on some moral or civil duty sense.
In general, they are akin to the accused. The press is seduced
into taking a lead role in the political process and drawing
benefits offered to those who seek to nibble a portion of power.

Alberto Dines


Picture The government is determined to put an end to the abusive disclosure of phone taps, whether these taps have been authorized or not. The government is going to fall on its face and gain the reputation of authoritarian on top of it all.

Grampolândia (Bugland)—to use the fortunate moniker created by journalist Fernando Rodrigues, one of the precursors of reel-journalism and a current sagacious political commentator—is not a result of the corruption level, the high standards of the press or the cleansing readiness from the authorities.

Then, what are the factors that contributed to the creation and extraordinary growth of such reel-journalism in Bugland's open territory?

** Availability of the press to embark on adventures at the disposal of parties with opposed interests.

** Ancient confusion in the search for fairdealing and media bias, in order to bring it to fruition.

** The press seduced into taking a lead role in the political process and drawing benefits—including material—offered to those who seek to nibble a portion of power.

In the Republic of Bugland, all-is-fair and anything-goes rule. That's its most visible trademark. The whistle blowers of scandals don't run on some moral or civil duty sense. In general, they are akin to the accused; the charges are merely battling weapons to impose themselves over their foes.

Game of Covers

Throughout the past eight years in which banker Daniel Dantas has held the scepter of Bugland, many of his opponents, if not the majority, can hardly be singled out as models of integrity or righteousness.

The politicians who recently began leaking information to the press about the Congressional Inquiry Commission of the Banestado bank investigation cannot be described as guardians of funds and champions in the fight against corruption.

Had they been so, they wouldn't have prompted seemingly insignificant parts of a scandal that amounts to 30 billion dollars. They are not interested in carrying forward the commission's work. They only want a quick bite, forget the rest.

There is an unequivocal political move in this series of revelations—be it in the Kroll-Brasil Telecom case, or in the case involving the presidents of the Central Bank and Banco do Brasil. We are entering round two of a warfare that began with Waldogate (a scandal involving Waldomiro Diniz, a top aide to chief of staff José Dirceu) and certainly will not end here.

Public interest, in this case, is only a cool pretext for the settling of personal and ideological affairs. Bugland is a no-man's-land at the moment, infested with blue flies—all wearing red hats—and lifted to heights by the market flies within the preying media.

When the ombudsman of the daily Folha de S. Paulo, Marcelo Beraba, pointed out on Sunday (8/01) the aberration inside newsmagazine Isto É`s cover story (7/28/04, edition no. 1,816), he didn't only draw attention to ethical digressions of a media outlet that confuses paid material with journalistic information and whose center figures are once again the governing duo of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The problem is no longer of a news organization that is in the red and will work out any deal hoping to pocket a handful of nickels from unscrupulous politicians.

While the bill on the face of the weekly magazine went to regular buyers, the heart of the cover cashed in for someone else, with revelations of a political scandal.

In the issue that followed (8/4/04, no. 1,817), Isto É raised the stakes to mark the launch of a new journalistic formula: a fake cover featuring the campaign of a 12-CD Collection of Brazilian Popular Music, and underneath it, the true cover, which provoked a political crisis of great proportions—the call for resignation of Henrique Meirelles as president of the Central Bank, in an effort to please the workings against Finance Minister Antonio Palocci.

Which of the covers is the commercial?

In the Shadow

Once again, come to light those who disregard the means as long as the end is attained. To them, it is of little significance whether the press—or part of it—be of service to shady interests; what matters is that the infractions be made public.

The position is supported by many people with good intentions, but it can't be sustained on moral grounds. If the accusations are equally engulfed in suspicions, why not discuss them openly?

What pudency is this where only parts of allegations are admitted while omitting the rest, impune? What kind of press is this, so prolific in audacity when it comes to unveiling undignified behaviors within the political spectrum, but unable to face infractions within its own realm?

Naturally, the government could not abstain from taking part in the latest festival of errors involving phone taps and leaks of secret procedures; and as always, it stepped in, seduced by heavy-handed solution.

Upon announcing the proposal of legislation aimed at restraining content disclosure of phone taps, the government clings to punitive recourses at one end of the procedure, forgetting the vast number of open taps in the justice system (and, in the case of Congressional Inquiry Commissions, the parliamentary system), which not only tolerates leaks, but also encourages them as well.

Just as the corrupting agent is as criminal as the corrupted victim, the leaking component also must be equally punished as the object of the leak.

Bugland is a territory frequented by those who hate transparency and have a passion for operating in the shadow. At this point, the government already knows who spilled the beans and who delivered the secret documents to newspapers and magazines. And if they don't yet know, it is vehemently incompetent regarding its own security.

Instead of bravados of gag orders threats, big and small, turning on the light will do—including the ones in the basement. Only then will press predators learn to play fairly.

This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensawww.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br.

Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Eduardo Assumpção de Queiroz. He is a freelance translator, with a degree in Business and almost 20 years of experience working in the fields of economics, communications, social and political sciences, and sports. He lives in Boca Raton, FL. His email: eaqus@adelphia.net,

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