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Brazzil - Media - August 2004

Brazil: A Bill for Reining In the Media

The Brazilian government is threatening to create an institution,
which would be able to prevent journalists from working. They
forget that the Brazilian Constitution considers working an unalienable
right, which can only be suspended by a judicial sentence.
It's a farce. Every government since Ramses II hates criticism.

Carlos Chagas


Picture The way it was written, or better yet, in any way it's written, Congress will not approve the bill that creates Brazil's Federal Council on Journalism.

The presidents of the House of Representatives and Senate as well as the leadership from the main parties, including some from the governing Workers' Party (PT) have already privately and publicly made their opinions known about the subject.

It's already becoming evident that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's intempestive proposal presented a week ago, is not more than a bulldozing tactic and by coincidence just at the eve of the municipal elections.

The government and the PT's intention, in reality, is to prevent the disclosure of charges against ministers and high-level public workers caught in all kinds of wrongdoing.

In threatening to create an institution, which in theory would be able to suspend or even make null and void the official registration of journalists, the powers that be want to forestall the revelation of accusations against them.

In Brazil, journalists, after graduating from a Communications school, need the government's seal of approval to exercise their profession. The new bill is being presented as a way to "guide, control and regulate" the media and when necessary forbid journalists from writing.

This tactic is old hat. During the military dictatorship (1964-1985) plenty of journalists were sued courtesy of the National Security Law. This was not necessarily to send journalists to prison, and much less to kill them, even though this would happen once in a while.

The main reason for this was to intimidate the class, to silence their voice by being truculent. Today they are more subtle. They want to scare, just hinting that the journalist might lose his job.

They are certainly oblivious to the fact that the Brazilian Constitution considers working an unalienable right, which can only be suspended by a judicial sentence.

It's nothing more than a farce. By the way, something very common in all its nuances. What every government since Ramses II really likes is praise. It hates criticism.

First Round

Inside the PT (Workers' Party, the party of President Lula), the fight is getting ugly in São Paulo, where the party is trying to find a candidate to run in 2006 for the choice post of state governor. In this battle, all is allowed, there are no holds barred.

Senator Aloísio Mercadante, PT's president José Genoíno, chief of staff José Dirceu, House speaker João Paulo Cunha, São Paulo mayor Martha Suplicy and even Finance Minister Antônio Palocci, all are coveting the governor's seat. Each one of them has specific problems though.

Palocci knows that even if there's a miracle and his economic policy works out, he will have plenty of hurdles ahead. The first one it the fact that he is from Ribeirão Preto, a smaller town in the interior of São Paulo that has little weight in the polling booth. Despite all this, who knows.

Mayor Suplicy wants to use city hall as a springboard for the Bandeirantes Palace (the governor's office). That's why she has been so adamant about choosing Michel Temer as her lieutenant and uniting with the PMDB party, which would give more solidity to her candidacy.

In any event, first she needs to be reelected as mayor, something not that easy to be accomplished despite recent polls favoring her.

João Paulo, if he is able to gather enough votes in order to continue as House speaker, will continue to be a strong candidate.

José Dirceu was sure this nomination would be his, since he has become the number two power in the country, just behind the President. He controlled everything and still controls a lot.

There is however, a stone in his shoe, and its name is Waldomiro Diniz. Diniz, a former aide, who was removed from his post after being involved earlier this year in a pecuniary scandal, is still a hindrance for all-powerful Dirceu.

José Genoíno believes he has the natural if not the divine right to run for the São Paulo governorship. After all, he was defeated in the previous election and believes he should have the same privileges as President Lula, who ran three times for President before getting elected the fourth time around.

He is being worn down, however, such is his obstinacy in trying to justify everything that happens to the PT under his helm. He might get lost for defending Delúbios (Delúbio Soares, the Workers' Party treasurer suspect of improper real estate deals).

Mercadante has already sacrificed himself, in the past, accepting the position of vice-president in a lost election. He has also served the Party in other capacities.

He was elected senator by a large margin of votes and is the leader of the government in the Senate. Mercadante is a counterpoint to Palocci, in terms of economic policy. It's not clear at the moment if this is a plus or a minus for him. He, however, holds the pole-position today.

There is another candidate, better said, someone who would have a better chance than any of those mentioned above if he was to run. That's why they don't want him being enlisted and are keeping him at arm's length, out of the racing track. His name is Suplicy, Senator Eduardo Suplicy.

Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.

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