Brazilian journalists told “We are under sexist attacks and we live in a climate of hate”

In Brazil, where citizens will choose the next country guide between Luiz Ignacio Lula and Jair Bolsonaro on October 30, attacks on journalists are on the rise. The complaint to by Katia Brembatti, from the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism: “There is no freedom to criticize”.

Interview with Katia Brembatti
President of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji)
Author: Lorenzo Bonuomo

Luiz Lula and Jair Bolsonaro, the candidates to the polls in the 2022 elections in Brazil (Twitter/Archive)

In September, almost one journalist a day, on average, was attacked while doing her work at the Brazil: attempts at professional discredit, insults to the person, sexist insults and even threats of rape. At the same time, a recent monitoring of “Datasheet“estimates that at least seven out of ten Brazilians are afraid to publicly express their political leanings.

These are two fundamental, unequivocal data that give an accurate idea of ​​the general climate in which the presidential elections are taking place in Brazil. On October 30, over 156 million voters will choose the next country guide from Luiz Inácio Lula AND Jair Bolsonarothe two candidates who emerged winners of the first round of elections that will be scrutinized at the end of the month.

The alarm was given (also) by theBrazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) last week: “Between August and September, violence against women professionals in the press grew 250%. It is no wonder: 64.3% of the cases were directly linked to the coverage of electoral campaigns and 50% of the attacks had the direct participation of politicians and state agents”, reads an article on the website.

According to Reporters Without Bordersin particular, the current Bolsonaro administration is considered responsible for dozens and dozens of attacks against professional journalists, making this method “one of the hallmarks of its tenure”. You spoke about the difficult situation of press freedom in Brazil the Brazilian journalist Katia Brembattipresident of Abraji.

Katia Brembatti, president of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) (Photo: Jonathan Campos)
Katia Brembatti, president of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) (Photo: Jonathan Campos)

According to the latest estimate by Reporters Without Borders, Brazil has dropped eight positions, from 102 to 110, in the world ranking of press freedom. What was the role of the Bolsonaro government in all this?

There is a direct relationship between this offspring and the Bolsonaro government. Since the beginning of his term (2019 edition) until today, we have witnessed a sequence of actions aimed at delegitimizing the press and making the work of journalists difficult. In particular, the transparency of government work and the fight against corruption have declined. It is clear that the less a government is transparent, the more debate and contradiction it is lacking. Our category would like to have more freedom to criticize, different from that freedom of expression understood as “freedom to offend”, which President Bolsonaro claims. In the last three years the problem has certainly worsened, but it was present even before his term: we only left a military dictatorship in 1985, so ours is a “young” democracy, still in development.

As demonstrated by several investigations, there is a “hate cabinet” within the government, which persecutes political opponents (deputies and journalists) of the current president on the internet and social networks. Who is it made of and how does it work?

“Anti-systemic” hate speech has always characterized Bolsonaro’s electorate and its political communication. Since his candidacy as head of government, he has consolidated himself on the internet and in WhatsApp and Facebook groups. The “hate cabinet”, as the local press called it, was created to maintain this anti-political rhetoric towards opponents. Although, in reality, Bolsonaro has always been part of the establishment itself, as he has changed many parties over the course of his political career. The “hate office” is an unofficial structure parallel to the government, formed by trusted people and communication experts to spread fake news (especially during the pandemic ed) and discredit opponents and journalists on the internet and social networks, always through an aggressive language. Ahead is the president’s third son, Carlos Bolsonaro, while the other names are almost all unknown.

Abraji estimated a dramatic increase in attacks on the professional credibility of journalists in the country: why are they targeted more than their male counterparts?

The attacks are more frequent against women because the Bolsonaro government has a male-dominated attitude, in line with that of the president. Bolsonaro often tends to discredit the person himself, not the arguments he expresses. This is his attitude towards criticism. And here is the reason for the sexist attacks. In doing so, conservatives are held together. This is the case, for example, of Patricia Campos Mello (journalist from Folha de S.Paulo and member of Abraji ed). In the past, you have carried out several investigations capable of jeopardizing Bolsonaro’s political reputation. A court ordered the president to compensate her because he implied she was offering sexual favors in exchange for news. There were also some “collages” of photos made by supporters of the president that portrayed her in obscene attitudes. The purpose of all this was to destroy her psychologically.

According to a survey by Datafolha, 7 out of 10 Brazilians say they are afraid to express their political opinions in public. What does this data tell us about the climate in which the elections were held?

That we live in a climate of hatred and tension. Many Brazilians are even afraid to talk about politics in WhatsApp groups with family members because they fear creating differences that prevent them from even spending Christmas together. There have been recent cases of physical assaults and murders. This year it happened that a person organized a party in support of Lula, with other people, in a place that was managed by a “bolsonarista”. The owner, who legally carried a gun, shot him after arguing with him. And it killed him. Despite the disastrous handling of the pandemic, crimes against indigenous people and allegations of corruption, many remained on Bolsonaro’s side due to the ideological rejection of the left. However, Lula too, let us remember, was crushed by some scandals.

If Lula wins the vote at the end of the month, will the press freedom situation improve?

Hard to say. Even Lula, during his double term, he had some disagreements with freedom of the press. He once threatened to expel a local correspondent from the New York Times, Larry Rother, who wrote an article in 2004 about his alleged habit of drinking too much. In any case, in the world of Brazilian journalism the feeling prevails that with Lula our situation would improve, at least in part. If Bolsonaro wins again, I think the latter could gain more legitimacy from the double win and thus exacerbate existing behavior.

Source: Flourish
Source: Flourish

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