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Brazil: Lula Won’t Back Down

 Brazil: Lula Won't Back 
  Down

Brazilian President
spokesman, Andre Singer, made it clear that
the government’s action against the NY Times correspondent in
Brazil did not mean the government is against freedom of the
press. According to Singer, it was the refusal of the paper to
make a retraction that caused the government to do what it did.
by: Paula
Medeiros

Brazzil
Picture

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is reported to be adamant:
he will not back down from the decision to revoke the temporary visa of New
York Times reporter, Larry Rohter (which means the journalist will have
to leave the country). Appeals by leaders of the Congress were not enough
to make Lula change his mind.

According to presidential
spokesman, Andre Singer, in spite of the negative reaction, the decision stands.
"The Brazilian government is not going to reverse its position on this
matter. We have solid, strong, well-thought-out reasons. It is our responsibility
to defend Brazil," declared Singer.

Rohter was the author
of an article that appeared in the May 9 New York Times claiming that Lula’s
drinking had become a reason for national concern in Brazil.

Singer made it clear that
the government’s action against Rohter did not mean the government was moving
against freedom of the press in general. "We have an ironclad commitment
to freedom of the press," declared the presidential spokesman, adding
that it was the refusal of the NY Times to make a retraction that caused
the government to do what it did.

"The government has
to respond in kind. If the New York Times had done something, it is possible
the government would not have taken the action it did," said Singer.

In other comments on the
case, Singer explained that there were absolutely no restrictions on the New
York Times. "As a matter of fact, they can send a replacement for Rohter
whenever they want to," he said.

In conclusion, Singer
said that the article had an enormous negative impact on the Brazilian government
and that the decision to expel Rohter was not a spur of the moment decision.
"The article was offensive to the president and Brazil. It was not based
on facts. It was gratuitous," he said.

Protest

The Association of Foreign
Press Correspondents issued a note with regard to the article written by American
reporter Larry Rohter and published on Sunday (9) in The New York Times,
concerning President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s reputed excess consumption
of alcoholic beverages. Cancellation of the reporter’s visa, the note says,
"violates the freedom of the press."

The full text of the note
is the following:

"Notwithstanding
the content of the article by New York Times reporter Larry Rohter, the Association
of Foreign Press Correspondents considers the cancellation of his visa, or
rather, his expulsion from Brazil, a very grave act that violates the freedom
of the press and recalls the darkest periods of the country’s history.

"We greatly lament
this decision, which does not conform to the principles of a free and democratic
society. We fear that this drastic attitude constitutes a warning to foreign
correspondents that, in order to work in Brazil, they should write articles
that please the Government."


Paula Medeiros works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett

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