Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian press, or at least the largest circulation press (print, radio and television) have been consistently portrayed by moderate leftists as being incorrigibly right wing and anti-progressive, given that they are never loath to criticize the current Lula/Dilma governments, whereas they rarely criticized the prior Fernando Henrique regime.
The coverage of the protests and demonstrations back in June and July of last year was almost completely one-sided and critical of the protesters, until the seminal moment when journalists were hit by rubber bullets fired by the police. The tone of the reporting then changed drastically, as the press beat its breast about freedom.
During the sporadic demonstrations since that time, the press have granted fairly even treatment to the protesters and to the police, and have not failed to point out brutality on either side. But two weeks ago the tone changed dramatically, because of the death of a cameraman working for Bandeirantes, hit in the head with an explosive flare-like device launched by a couple of protesters.
Their lawyer first claimed that the protesters received R$150 to go out with the black bloc brigade, and to insinuate that the black bloc backers were leftist political parties such as PSOL. The reaction from PSOL and others was outrage. Moreover, a prominent columnist for another paper is that the R$150 payments, not to mention the black masks and the inflammatory devices, are supplied by the “militia” in Rio and in São Paulo, who want revenge for losing their lucrative operations.
The most astonishing fact that has come out of all this is that, during the demonstrations, journalists have not been wearing vests and helmets and other protective items clearly marking them as “Press” as they do in war zones around the world. Why? Because even the “good” protesters still identify the mainstream press with the government and refuse to let them near their demonstrations. Moreover, the police sent to control the demonstrations do not want the press around, in case they spot and report on brutality.
This past Saturday in São Paulo, a reasonably large protest against the World Cup was marked by the police, after about an hour, separating off a group of over 200 protesters, most of them apparently “black blockers” and taking them all down to the police station. One of the major papers played up the fact that some five journalists were among the group, and interviewed a spokesman for an activist lawyer group who was protesting the round-up of 200 people on mere suspicion.
The readers’ comments were almost unanimous in despising the black blocs, the activist lawyers and the press, who are called “cowards” because they don’t identify themselves. Only the police were praised, for having avoided the commission of a crime.
The Curmudgeon doesn’t think reporters are cowards, but he does think that if they identified themselves they could avoid the injuries that have occurred. Their reply is that they wouldn’t be able to get any news that way. The Curmudgeon is not a journalist, but he wonders whether the phrase “no news is good news” might not be applicable here.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)