FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
Brazilian journalist shot in the eye by police during June protests in Sao Paulo.Since then several other journalists have also been targeted by the police.
A journalist’s ability to shape public opinion is a fearsome thing. This came home to me with particular force when I asked a friend in the south of the United States if she had heard about the political situation in Brazil
“O, the riots,” she said.
My friend is a highly intelligent, well read, well informed person. That she failed to question how the global media has chosen to represent Brazilian protesters is, in my opinion, typical of the trust we place in the media. True, we liberals might question Fox News and extreme Rightists ascribe all sorts of evil motives to the so-called liberal press. Bottom line, a huge number of Americans trust the press to tell them the truth. The problem with the coverage of events in Brazil the disconnect between the First World and a country that does not yet command sufficient respect in the global arena. I mean, would American journalists characterise the events in Tianmen Squareas a riot? I seriously doubt it.But Brazil is a country the global press fails to take seriously. It is a country burdened with an image shaped long ago by the American press. It is the image of dolce far niente, of people who do little more than play samba, wear tiny bikinis and play soccer. While a portion of Brazilian reality might correspond to this depiction, it is a tiny fraction of a greater painful reality. That reality includes powerful social upheavals–states of siege, banditry, revolutions, a brutal military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 198. It is a reality that encompasses political corruption, an infrastructure that failed to keep pace with population growth, an atmosphere of police brutality, a vast gap between the haves and have-nots.
Throughout history, Brazilians have shouldered heavy burdens, one of which is the weight of American influence on the political life of the average citizen. Nearly every Brazilian knows who trained the torturers of the military regime. Every Brazilian suspects that some American corporations would find it easier to do business in a country ruled by an oppressive dictatorship than in a democracy where people are free to participate in decision making. One would think that being aware of the somber role their government plays, Americans journalists would feel more inclined to use some objectivity when they write about current protests in approximately 80 Brazilian cities.
The current movement in Brazil is a national movement. It is a legitimate expression of dissatisfaction with a status quo. It is an attempt to change a system no American would tolerate for long. Journalists have a huge responsibility. They can make an intelligent woman in North Carolina assume that what is going on in Brazil is nothing but rioting by a bunch of hooligans.Brazilians begged for understanding during the dictatorship. It did not come from abroad. Today, Brazilians are not begging, they are demanding accountability, transparency, a participatory democracy, a free press, freedom of expression and a better quality of life. To fail to show the world what is really happening, to rely on second hand news from newspapers that answer to advertisers is to betray the trust that comes with the obligation to report the truth.Brazilians want to know who bene
fits from the World Cup. They want to know why billions were spent on stadiums when the country needs schools, hospitals and adequate public transportation. These are legitimate questions. Those asking them have the constitutional right to assemble, to protest, to make their voices heard. It is the media’s responsibility to listen and to get the word out.