The series of allegations
that is making Brazil's rulers lose sleep
was once welcome and encouraged by oppositions to the former
administration, who viewed the disclosures as fruits of legitimate
"investigative journalism." Journalists don't need to be protected
by the Executive. They need protection from the Judiciary.
Tormented by a storm of accusations from portions of the Brazilian press against
members of the economic team, the Lula administration has opted for a disastrous
solution: it submitted to Congress an archaic and controversial proposal for
the creation of the Federal Council of Journalism.
In an explanatory note,
Brazil's Labor Minister, Ricardo Berzoini, states openly that the new entity
will "guide, discipline, and police" the practice of the journalistic
profession. He goes on to say that "currently, there isn't an institution
with legal capacity to regulate, police, and punish inadequate conducts by
The initiative is the
most inept and perplexing ever engendered within the press sphere by an administration,
since the re-democratization in 1985, not only in spirit, but also in the
its harshly authoritative and corporative form.
The opportunity, the justification,
and the content couldn't have been more dreadful and inconvenient. It seems
like a tribute to the omnipotent Estado Novo ("New State", reference
to late President Vargas' program under his dictatorial regime of the 30's,
40's, and 50's), with a touch of Mussolini, George W. Bush, and Hugo Chavez.
It mixes oranges with
apples, suspects the existence of a problem within the nation's media but
is incapable of identifying it, and obviously, heads off in the opposite direction
of the correct solution.
The problem in our news
media isn't with the professionals, but the concentration of media outlets,
cross-ownership, and above all, certain news organizations that disregard
responsibilities and neglect their social role in favor of privileges available
under the Constitution.
The current wave of accusations
carries the signature of respectful journalists, but it is inflated by certain
media outfits assaulted by predators who are committed to serving opposed
interests and nibble bits of power.
The leaks in secret procedures
unveil wrongdoings, but ultimately, they unveil the thick layer of rust that
clogs up our transparency model.
The series of allegations
that is making this administration lose sleep was once welcome and encouraged
by oppositions to the former administration, who viewed the disclosures as
fruits of legitimate "investigative journalism."
The professionals who
became experts in transcribing phone taps from questionable sources were never
forced to do sothey gave in to the temptation of glory bestowed by organizations
that mistake journalistic independence with dependence to shady origins of
Labor Minister Ricardo
Berzoinior those who enticed him into signing that nonsenseis
at the very least being naïve in the thinking that the practice of engineering,
chemistry, or architecture is comparable to that of the news line of work.
He embarked on a sinking
boat of simplism, believing that a National Council of Engineering is the
same as a Federal Council of Journalism. Perhaps inspired by Lourival Fontes
(late journalist and former Chief of Staff of President Vargas in the early
50's), the Minister decided to resuscitate the ghosts of subservience and
patronize old ideals of corporativism.
Spasms and Juggleries
Journalists don't need
to be protected by the Executive; on the contrary, they need to untangle themselves
from the political ropes of power. Journalism must be carried out free of
dubious constraints and affiliations. Journalists need protection, indeed,
but protection from the Judiciary.
This is the equation politically
correct and morally defensible. If there are judges who place their personal
interests under an untouchable constitutional clause that allows for the supremacy
of freedom of expression over all other rights, then the behavior of such
judges must be made public.
The original formula regarding
the balance of power was conceived by Montesquieu, and later, when adopted
by patriarchs of the North-American Republic, the press became the Fourth-Power,
an independent and effective counter-power.
With journalists sponsored
by an entity created by the federal government, and whose books will be under
the scrutiny of the Union Accounting Office, what kind of journalism will
society be offered?
If the law of the jungle
in effect around obscure corners of our media truly is a concern, the government
should immediately bring forth the debate over the establishment of a regulatory
agency, modeled after the American FCC (Federal Communications Commission),
created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or its British counter-part, IBA (Independent
Broadcasting Authority). This is the correct path, democratic, liberal, and
libertarian, effectively progressive.
By coincidence, at the
same time the government was ready to publish the exotic arbitrary measure
in the Diário Oficial (the nation's official register), the
candidate John Kerry promised at a rally in Washington to fight off the concentration
of media conglomerates precisely through the FCC.
Instead of garnering sympathy
from a group of journalists, particularly the dwellers of public relations
offices of state agencies, the government should seek sympathy from readers.
They are the ones most interested in sound journalism, free of marketing juggleries
and sensationalistic spasms.
Journalists and a Bar
As to the question of
the National Council of Journalism (CNJ), it is not fair to put all the blame
solely on the government, nor Fenaj (National Federation of Journalists).
It's imperative that CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores, one of the
nation's most powerful workers' union) also be included.
As soon as the more radical
segment of CUT was handed control of Fenaj, the interests of journalists and
journalism in Brazil became subject to their ambitions, idiosyncrasies, and
dogmas; rarely with good intentions.
CUT doesn't fool around:
it's not enough for them to have authority over the National Federation of
Journalists, the entity representative of Brazilian journalists. Command of
the press is what CUT wants, to impose their rules, priorities, and "ethics".
To seize the Fourth-Power.
Because ABI (Brazilian
Press Association) was going through a wear and tear processfortunately
interruptedstrategists from CUT-Fenaj conceived of an entity capable
of taking its place in a maneuver to ditch civil liberties.
Along with the Bar Association
(OAB) and the National Confederation of Bishops (CNBB), ABI's role in mobilizing
the nation to bring about the end of the military regime was still very present.
Therefore, CUT-Fenaj felt the need for a political organization, above trade
unions, more fitting of their project to gain power.
CUT-Fenaj want to own
the profession, own the search for truth; hence, own the absolute truth. He
who disagrees is no longer journalist; he who doesn't abide by their criteria
must change profession. They planted a wedge in the news profession, equating
it to press secretaries.
Since Fenaj is currently
ruled by press secretaries (mostly employed by communications departments
within the administration), Fenaj's journalistic ideals and ethics will be
reinforced via its illegitimate son, the Federal Council of Journalism.
Nothing against press
secretaries and communications advisors: they are essential in the planning
of mobilizing events and carrying out informative programs. But that is merely
display and exposure.
Under objective and subjective
perspectives, this is not journalism; it is targeted and biased communication.
And journalists are impartial communicators. The difference between the two
occupationsequally respectableis simply that; small, yet transcendental.
If CUT-Fenaj dreamed of
a Bar Association of Journalists, why didn't they create one? Why not gather
the professionals and start the National Bar Association of Journalists? Just
like its inspirer, a Bar Association of Journalists would look out for quality,
ethics, and defend the practice of journalism.
That wasn't the goal:
CUT-Fenaj already have journalists on a leash. Now, they want to conquer journalism.
This article was originally
published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório
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 email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.