Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s most popular president in recent history, seems to be in a collision course with some of the big media corporations. His administration is sponsoring a National Conference on Communications allegedly to draft a regulatory framework which media corporations claim has an only purpose, government control of the press and its content.
In the opening address to the Conference President Lula said the media commits “excesses,” publishes “lies,” fabricates news and gets involved in campaigns that disseminate “slander and abuse.” However “I have a sacred commitment to freedom of the press.”
The conference, which has representatives from social movements, government unions, businessmen and journalists had a limited success since several media organizations such as the National Magazine Editors, Aner, refused to participate and several of the country’s leading newspapers criticized the essence and purpose of some of the regulatory proposals.
Aner president Roberto Muylaert said his organization did not participate because of the veiled attempts from “several groups” to establish “a model subject to government interference.”
“The proposal to create a ‘social council’ to audit press content implies modifications to the Constitution which guarantees free initiative and freedom of expression,” said Muylaert. He added “social control sends shivers anywhere in the world because it is incompatible with freedom of expression and a free press.”
The conference agenda includes among other points the legal framework for all media; concessions regime and access to new technologies. Over 600 proposals were compiled for future consideration.
The influential daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo said that the “strong lobby pro-government control of content and property motivated the non participation of the private sector in the conference.”
“Social control of the media is an euphemism to subordinate the free flow of information to the undercover interference from government,” pointed out in an editorial the São Paulo publication.
Miguel Angelo Gobbi, head of the National Association of Newspapers from the Interior said his organization had walked out on the conference because of “lack of dialogue.”
“We wanted to be part of the debate but we were always voted out,” said Gobbi. Two other major organizations the Brazilian Association of Broadcasting Enterprises and the National Association of Newspapers refused to participate in the conference.
Another of the proposals accepted by the conference was the creation of a Journalism Ethics Council to ensure the “quality” of information and the free expression of journalists’ vis-à-vis the media companies. The proposal was supported by the Brazilian National Federation of Journalists.
President Lula said he could proudly state that “the media in Brazil is free, it investigates what it wishes and what is does not wish, publishes and does not publish what it feels, but my commitment with a free press is sacred.”
“I’ve learnt to live peacefully with all the slander and abuse against me from certain media,” he confessed.