Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s comments on freedom of the press are “something dangerous” and put him on the tracks of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, said the president of the Inter-American Press Association (SIP), Alejandro Aguirre in an interview published in Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
After considering the comments as a direct attack on the media which criticizes Lula’s administration, Aguirre told reporters that “the president’s remarks are something dangerous.”
Lula has repeated during public appearances that some sectors of the Brazilian media are acting “like political parties” and supporting opposition candidates. He has asked for more control over the press and stricter sentencing for “slander and the profusion of lies.”
Aguirre warned that “freedom of the press is a right that belongs to the people and not to the government.”
He went further and said that “it is obvious that we are before a government that’s following the steps of other Latin American governments, like Chavez’s in Venezuela, and Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner,” by developing some tough attitudes against the independent media that does not stay on the government’s course.
“Regretfully we have seen cases of democratic governments that at some moment begun to act in an authoritarian manner to control the media, particularly those that follow an independent line, independent criteria.”
Aguirre anticipated that SIP, which brings together the newspapers of the Americas, will make an official declaration on its position regarding recent statements from the Brazilian president.
“We are very concerned with the situation in Brazil, In other statements we have expressed this, but we are hopeful that the person who succeeds Mr. Lula as president will be respectful of civil and human rights, and of freedom of expression as the cornerstone of democracy,” added Aguirre.
SIP is always alert and concerned when a leader from the region considers he is “the owner of public opinion for having been elected.”
A democratic election is something very important and significant “but the free flow of information and opinion is a right that belongs to the people not the government.”
In the latest political rallies in support of the ruling Workers party candidate for the coming October 3 presidential election, Dilma Rousseff, Lula has repeated that victory will also mean “a defeat for the media that criticizes him and his administration.”
Lula is furious with newspapers and magazines that have exposed a ring of alleged corruption involving the successor of Ms Rousseff as cabinet chief and which has forced the recent resignation of several top officials of his administration.
On Tuesday he toned down his criticism saying freedom of the press strengthens democracy “but can’t be used to spread lies or invent things every day.”
Lula’s statements were harshly criticized by Brazil’s Bar Association and the Printed Media Association.