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Lack of Comments Regarding TSE Judgment Highlights Challenge for Upcoming Elections

06/12/2017 - 12h49

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PAULA CESARINO COSTA

The decision by the Federal Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) not to nullify the Dilma Rousseff-Michel Temer Electoral Ticket, justified on dubious technicalities regarding the non-recognition of abuse of economic power in the original 2014 lawsuit, reveals the resilience of the power structures addicted to the Brazilian political system.

Among readers, social network users, journalists and political commentators, manifestations in favor of the decisions handed down by the TSE justices have been minimal. As of Saturday morning, the ones I had seen could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Those that disagreed with the decision expressed feelings of indignation mixed with sneers - "this was the first case of acquittal due to an excess of proof", mocked one reader.

Readers of Folha shouldn't say that they are surprised by the TSE's decision. Ever since the end of the term of two justices from this court, newspapers have repeatedly published Michel Temer's clear strategy of choosing replacement names that he could trust and count on to "kill in the chest", quoting the now famous Brazilian expression, the reaction of public opinion to the continuation of his term.

In Saturday's (the 10th) print edition, Folha ran a headline that sought to go beyond simply noting the result of the decision: "Gilmar Breaks Tie and the TSE Acquits Michel Temer by a Vote of Four to Three". The Estado de S. Paulo (State of São Paulo) followed the same line: "TSE Maintains Temer in the Presidency by 4 Votes to 3". The Globo (Globe) was more original: "TSE Ignored Proof".

Exhausted by the excessive hours of transmission of live coverage on TV and the internet, few readers reacted regarding the journalistic coverage itself. They concentrated their comments instead on the result.

The *Folha*'s coverage didn't stand out. I realize that time was short but the editors weren't able to produce a quality summary of the main points voted on by the justices. This was the essential requirement, to be synthesized with analysis and background information, in order to help readers to make up their own minds.

The trial is over, but the political crisis hasn't passed. The President of the Republic will most likely be charged by the Prosecutor General's Office, possibly with the accusation of heading up a criminal undertaking.

In the midst of so much distrust of so many institutions, it is up to the press to carry out in earnest its role as a watchdog.

From the institutional side, history will judge the justices on what the case's rapporteur referred to as "intentional blindness". From the journalistic side, what can the press learn from the process, from the elements of corruption raised and the resulting decision?

Whoever pursues independent and vigorous lines of investigation will have a better chance of proving themselves essential to their readers.

One of the things I lament is seeing the secondary role that journalistic inquiry has had both in the TSE trial and in the majority of the processes related to the so-called Car Wash Operation (Lava Jato). More than just a reaction to official institutions, journalism needs to run on its own engine.

The coverage of the 2018 election cycle is already setting itself up to be a huge challenge for journalists. After everything that has been revealed regarding the underground activities of the campaigns, it will be difficult for the public to accept predominantly descriptive coverage, without a supporting financial and investigative structure to screen candidates and political parties.

In the midst of the crisis, newspapers have opportunities before themselves, as well as responsibilities.

OMBUDSMEN OF THE OMBUDSMAN

Last week, in commenting on the surprising and wrong-headed decision of the New York Times to do away with its position of Ombudsman, I agreed with a reader who declared: "The majority of readers react with 'I think so'. 'Think-ism' is different than journalism".

I was criticized. Reader Flávio Fonseca saw this as "arrogance and superiority by the class that thinks it is the lord of the truth and the absolute owner of universal knowledge".

Reader Sergio Holl Lara argued that "there are those who react with 'I think so' and those who react with 'I don't think so' " and among readers there are those with experience and education that give them qualified opinions, that we can chose to agree with or not.

I apologize to anyone who may have been offended. An explanation is in order. Readers' opinions are a fundamental base of the work of this representative. There are many different kinds of readers with different opinions.

None are any better or worse than the other. It is up to the Ombudsman to hear them all out, understand them, and pass them along to the Editorial staff. Neither can readers be the only voice that is heard nor can the Ombudsman disdain them.

I reiterate that the position strengthens the readers and promotes a dialogue with the Editors - and a forum for reader expectations.

It is now more necessary than ever to listen to the voice of readers. The changing environment demands that the position be renewed and ever more qualified.

And for this, I want to thank you readers for also being the Ombudsman's Ombudsmen.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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