Many Brazilians are asking themselves this question right now: in a country that is so politically divided, can anyone rely on the local media for accurate news?
All eyes are on the nation once regarded as the “country of the future” as it confronts one of its worst crises in recent years, with a President on the verge of impeachment and an embarrassing Congress anxiously waiting to take over. But Brazilians are starting to wonder if they have been “played” by the national media.
While some question whether what is going on in Brazil is in fact a “coup” led by big communication groups such as Globo media enterprises designed to destabilize the current government by feeding the public one-sided media coverage, others are directing their anger at the party that swore to fight corruption, but apparently succumbed to it.
It’s a question worth asking whether President Dilma Rousseff is fit or not to rule the country, as Brazilians are indeed increasingly unhappy with the economy and unemployment. However, what is absolutely unquestionable is the fact that Brazilian media has been overtaken by private interests in a game that has laid siege to the one thing every journalist, by definition, strives for: the pursuit of truth.
In that sense, it is very possible that the Brazilian media has not only played the masses but also played itself by succumbing to a general state of media frenzy and hysteria.
You’d think the media would be asking the questions we need answers to, such as: Is Dilma’s impeachment a constitutional process? Is it a legitimate accusation? Is she receiving a fair trial? What are the political reasons behind the impeachment trial? What is the immediate and long-term future of the government?
But the media seems to be largely ignoring these questions. In fact, those questions began to emerge on foreign papers and websites when the national media failed to ask them. Most national media outlets seemed to ignore those questions, giving their readers a distorted version of reality. The Brazilian media failed to follow the guidelines of basic journalism. They failed to fact check and to report. It took prestigious foreign media outlets such as The Guardian, El País and award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald (writing for various medias outlets) and Christiane Amanpour (for CNN) to ask a legitimate question in a country driven by passion and hate: is what’s going on a soft coup?
Due to the one-sided nature of the media, thousands of small and questionable new media outlets began to emerge. They thrived on social media and didn’t necessarily check their facts, thus putting into circulation often inaccurate or distorted news pieces. On one side, left-leaning parties armed themselves with questionable media outlets that reproduced old, paranoid pieces that looked like they could have dated back to the Cold War. On the other side, fascist websites thrived off of dark forecasts of the future with Dilma running the country, rewinding history to a possible military solution with ideas that have long been dead. To them, the past is the future.
The wake-up call came last Sunday when millions of Brazilians watched the Lower House vote on whether to move forward with Dilma’s impeachment process, ultimately sending the decision to the Senate, which will now decide on the President’s fate.
As they listened to over 500 congressmen cast their votes, Brazilians realized something was very wrong with their Congress. The dream of a country “free of corruption” seemed to be very distant. Almost none of the congressmen cited the accusations leveled against the President: masking Brazil´s real tax situation in order to get elected.
Instead, congressmen provided reasons as strange and far fetched as god, family, sons, wives, the state of Israel, freemasons and even “to avoid transgender kids.” Little attention was given to the case at hand. The congressmen also displayed poor knowledge of Portuguese as some couldn’t use verbs correctly or form plural sentences. And to the shock of Brazilian voters, congressman Bolsonaro decided to praise a military hitman known for his cruelty and for having tortured President Rousseff when she was imprisoned during the Brazilian dictatorship. The amount of religious speeches dismayed many Brazilian voters and the international press. “God got Dilma impeached,” read Spain El País.
An editorial of in The Guardian called the Rousseff’s impeachment process a “tragedy and a scandal.” The New York Times ran pieces both in favor and against the impeachment. A normal process of the news is including debate and a plurality of views, which is something so basic to journalism but was mostly ignored by big news outlets in Brazil. The international media has been openly using the word “coup,” while in Brazil it has only been used by leftist activists and supporters of Rousseff’s government.
After seeing Eduardo Cunha, a man known for being implicated in far more acts of corruption than Rousseff herself, presiding over last Sunday’s congressional impeachment session, Brazilians were confronted by these questions: Is Roussef’s impeachment an important step towards the end of corruption in Brazil? Or is it just a power shuffle, a chess game that will shift posts but perpetuate immoral practices?
Those questions have yet to be answered. But while the international media is asking them, the Brazilian media is failing to do so.