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Can’t Brazil Leave the NY Times Alone?

 Can't Brazil Leave the 
  NY Times Alone?

On giving in to the
temptation of again confronting the powerful
New York Times, the Brazilian government is issuing an affidavit
that the Federal Council of Journalism is its own initiative, and
not the journalists’. Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists
has behaved as a Brasília’s godchild throughout this episode.
By Alberto
Dines

The new round in the battle between the government and the New York Times
basically has the same ingredient as the previous one: exaggeration. It’s
not the government’s job to teach a journalist and a newspaper how an article
is written.

If neither of them felt
necessary to listen to what Fenaj (National Federation of Journalists) has
to say about the creation of the Federal Council of Journalism that is their
prerogative.

Based on the premise that
the creation of the self-managed entity would be a dangerous infraction in
terms of information freedom, they found unnecessary to listen to the infractors.

It’s not for the Commander
in Chief to re-embark on the controversy with reporter Larry Rohter. The countercharge
should have come from the communications or public relations attaché
of the Brazilian consulate or by a low level spokesperson of Itamaraty, the
Foreign Ministry.

It gives the impression
of a formal patrol or, to use a metaphor from team sports, a tight one-on-one
defense formation over a professional who theoretically ought to enjoy the
freedom to express himself as he pleases.

The interest from the
international press in respect to the controversy surrounding the Council
is legitimate. Our organization, Observatório da Imprensa (Press
Observatory), has been contacted by more than half a dozen foreign media outlets
that certainly have given coverage to the topic in the past weeks—a fact
that has deserved no official response.

The government commits
a greater mistake by bringing upon itself a controversial issue with which
it has nothing to do. If, as stated in the memo signed by the President’s
Press Secretary, Ricardo Kotscho, the idea of the Federal Council of Journalism
came from Fenaj, the one to argue Larry Rohter’s article should be the union
representative of the profession, not the government which has innocently
given it shelter.

On giving in to the temptation
of again confronting the powerful American newspaper, the government is issuing
an affidavit to the public that the infamous Council is indeed its own initiative,
and not the journalists’.

Because Fenaj has behaved
as a godchild of the administration throughout this episode, its non-participation
in responding only reinforces the notion of Executive intervention in a sphere
over which it has no jurisdiction.

If earlier the State’s
innocence as to the idea of establishing the Council was plausible, the effort
directed to taking on this brawl makes it unequivocal its fostering.

No Magic Tricks

If an error exists in
the articles of Monday’s (7/6/2004) New York Times and Tuesday’s International
Herald Tribune it would be combining the initiative of creating the Council
of Journalism with the leaks of a draft proposal for Ancinav (the agency to
oversee cultural productions) prior to preliminary talks about the institution.

The American journalist
exaggerates while trying to put together isolated events in order to convert
them into a political strategic maneuver. The idea of the Council is on its
own plenty freakish, requiring no further amendments, suppositions or conspiracy
theories.

As in the previous episode,
the native press’ overreaction confers it undue relevance. The influential
daily O Estado de S. Paulo carried the incident on the front page (Tuesday,
9/7), the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo awarded it the top headline along
with President Lula’s speech on Independence Day.

And O Globo, despite
not making any references on the front page, attributed it headlines inside
(page 11). This is a snowball that does not justify the lack of news during
the prolonged hot holiday weekend.

The indispensable picturesque
item of the New York Times refers to our Observatório
and this Observer at the end. In the article, published in its entirety by
O Estado de S. Paulo, that last paragraph evaporated. On Folha
there were no magic tricks—both names have for long been on its black
list.

This article was
originally published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br.


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. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br.

Translated
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: eaqus@adelphia.net.

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