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Brazzil - Politics - September 2004

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.

Alberto Dines

Picture 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

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
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:

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