The Brazilian media turned on the spotlights, but it hates spotlights on itself. It started the spinning fan, but it hides that it has been splattered with mud. It loves to make noise, as long as it's not noise about itself. This media of ours is a phenomenon.
Agile, creative and daring but, at the same time, painful, neglectful and pusillanimous. The transfiguration of the beautiful into beast happens only in one circumstance: when they are offered a mirror. It is enough to see itself compared to the institutions of the mortal commoner, for our winged media to become witch. Or a tyrannosaur.
It was a cover story in the Veja magazine (issue 1,905 of May 18) that deflagrated the scandals cascade that is turning the country head over hills.
But when the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (CPI) of the Post Office, created due to the repercussion of this article, unveiled on Tuesday (July 5) how this article was obtained and who obtained it, the world's fifth largest weekly behaves as a parochial pamphlet: for modesty or immodesty, it concealed from the readers any reference about this revelation.
In its last edition (1,913, from July 13, page 9), Veja behaves as the high vestal of press criticism. It denounces snitching, it defends the diligent investigation, it is even a faithful follower of the Observatório da Imprensa (website that monitors the Brazilian media).
If only it wouldn't omit the embarrassing confessions of private eye-videomaker-and-now-journalist Jairo Martins about his promiscuous relations with Veja's Brasília bureau.
Purchase and Sale Operation
Veja did more than simply hide its sins from the public opinion. The next day, Wednesday, it was the turn of lobbyist Marcos Valério to reveal before the CPI and the television cameras that the cover story of the magazine Isto É Dinheiro with Fernanda Karina's explosive interview, scheduled to be published in September of last year, was tabled after Marcos Valério's visit to Domingo Alzugaray, owner of the Editora Três, responsible for the publication of the Isto É Dinheiro.
The lobbyist also revealed that he paid 300,000 reais (US$ 128,000) to journalist Gilberto Mansur, an employee of the publishing house and its consultant.
Less than 24 hours before, in the program Observatório da Imprensa na TV, reporter Leonardo Attuch, the article's author with Fernanda Karina, declared peremptorily that the article was not published in September 2004 for lack of evidence; he denied, also peremptorily, any encounter with Marcos Valério.
The deposition of Marcos Valério the next day showed that the journalist lied twice: he met Marcos Valério and the reason that prevented the publication of that bomb was not the lack of proof, but the weight of the 300,000 reais paid to Editora Três.
In the last issue of Isto É (the Editora Três flagship publication, dated July 14, on page 29), in a little and cunning note, the weekly tries to defend Gilberto Mansur (who doesn't need to be defended, since he was just an intermediary of a purchase and sale operation) and it removes from the scene the former leading man of photo romance novels Domingo Alzugaray, Editora Três's current publisher.
The magazine Época, completely free to show the public opinion the competitors lamentable blunders, was suddenly attacked by an unexpected bout of discretion and solidarity.
It seemed like an English lady who pretends raucousness in order not to reveal the neighbor's peccadillos. With the title "The News Backstage", the magazine quickly describes the transactions of Isto É, but it ignores totally the investigative modus operandi of Veja (issue 373, July 11, page 38).
The weeklies modesty on the troubles of their own sector contrasts lively with the prodigality of indignation in the report on the lies of the PT, the Executive and the Legislative. And it was not accidental.
The big newspapers of Wednesday and Thursday (July 6 and 7) also were neglectful or, in the best of the hypotheses, parsimonious in telling the magazines wrongdoings in the Post Office's CPI.
On Wednesday, Folha de S. Paulo published a little note about Veja, Rio's daily O Globo wrote something slightly bigger and O Estado just ignored it. On Thursday, in reference to Isto É, only O Estado registered Marcos Valério's embarrassing revelations.
The phlegm was not casual, but part of a pact. It belongs to a historical gentleman’s agreement, arranged at the beginning of the 1980s (in reaction to the journalists' strike), which resulted in the creation of the ANJ (National Association of Newspapers, which included the Editora Abril that publishes Veja).
Later, due to specific interests, the ANJ begat an offspring, the Aner (National Association of Magazines Publishers) controlled by Abril but presided at the moment by Carlo Alzugaray, son of Domingo.
Somebody Is Missing in the CPI
How can you expect, then, that Aner would condemn the lack of decency of two powerful associates and that the loquacious and belligerent ANJ come in defense of the press good name, if the great pool of the printed media was set up exactly to muffle the criticism?
This corporative performance has a physiologic origin and can be seen in the episode of costly publicity campaign to promote the Chamber of Deputies image, then headed by the awkward João Paulo Cunha (from the PT of São Paulo).
In a truly democratic country, with a truly independent press, it would be inconceivable that the Legislative Power used taxpayer's money to polish the image of an institution that shelters 300 hacks.
Nevertheless, the campaign was launched with noise last year on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. No journalistic vehicle protested against this abuse. Except the Observatório da Imprensa.
Nobody wanted to do without the pocket change that the Chamber distributed so generously. Now we find out in the CPI that congressman João Paulo Cunha hired one of the agencies of Marcos Valério to distribute the riches to the media.
10 months ago, if some newspaper or journalist had denounced the promiscuity of the Legislative with the press, part of the scandals could have been aborted.
This last week, it became clear that someone is missing in the Inquiring Committee. But no Commitee member will have the courage to serve this summons.
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. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated from the Portuguese by Arlindo Silva.