No One Tells Me To Shut Up

Process of delegitimizing the work of the press is in full swing

May 3's World Press Freedom Day recorded acts of violence, both physical and verbal, against journalists covering demonstrations of support for the president in Brasília.

On Tuesday, May 5, in the playpen in front of the Palácio da Alvorada, Bolsonaro gave his show. When he asked about the changes in the Federal Police, he told the reporters to shut up.

With an image of Folha's front page in hand, he called the newspaper "scoundrel," "rascal," and "liar." Bolsonaro claimed not to have interfered with the Federal Police, which he himself defended as his right.

On Thursday (7), the special secretary of Culture, Regina Duarte, in an interview with CNN Brasil, reacted negatively when she was presented with video challenged on her actions as the culture secretariat.

Once again, it was left to journalism. The actress said she did not want to hear the questions and said she was being forced to do that by the journalists ("who are you?", The actress asked the anchor) and added that none of that had been agreed upon.

A day later, former Army commander, General Eduardo Villas Bôas, a kind of mentor on the part of the Army, Bolsonaro and bolsonaristas, went to social media to defend the actress and took the opportunity to criticize the press.

He said that he was delighted with the way the actress got rid of the "traps" that they tried to impose on her, called the attitude of the anchors disrespectful and questioned: "Why do some journalists think they can act as members of an inquisition court, dispensing with basic principles of civility ?!"

This was a tough week for the press.

Questioning the authority of journalists for performing their role, which is to ask questions, sums up nicely how the press is understood today by the president, his comrades, and by the opinion leaders.

The attacks are very reminiscent of the barracks world and appear to follow a military strategy.
They are committed by people who expect to inspire fear and "respect" to whom they are addressed, who do not admit contradictory and who seem to follow the maxim that a war (cultural or against a pandemic) is not won only with warlike superiority, but with strong control of the narrative.

The vision automatically throws the press into the enemy camp, and the first victim is certainly information.
The discomfort with questions and headlines made by the press is not new. It is common to public authorities, business people, artists, and representatives of the so-called financial market, especially when the press addresses issues that they would somewhat have forgotten.

But the shamelessness of acting so virulently in democratic periods is unprecedented.
After "shut up," Bolsonaro tried to apologize, valid only until the next tantrum.
Regina Duarte merely reacted as if she did not know that journalists ask questions that, if they follow the usual practice, will leave the script set up by the interviewee, with the freedom that she is granted not to answer.

And how does the press react?
Editorials are written, press associations and authorities issue disapproval notes, and everything goes on until the next attack.

And he comes. At the end of the week, it was the turn of the governor of Santa Catarina, Carlos Moisés (PSL). Pressured to account for the purchase of 200 respirators that did not reach the state, 'Commander Moisés' said he was the target of the media in a virtual meeting with businessmen and suggested to the group of potential advertisers "hold these vehicles responsible."

In the war tactic, the process of delegitimizing the work of the press is underway, in full swing, in an attempt to injure death, in addition to the pocket, its credibility.

But we are not at war, and we must ensure that the "shut up" died and that his ghost does not haunt us.

Newspapers have to do journalism. They need to stop automatically repeating that the speech of the governor of Santa Catarina was just an "outburst" and, of course, to deepen the investigative reports, be it about respirators bought by weight of gold and not delivered, or about the paralysis that affects culture, or about the interests surrounding the Federal Police of Rio de Janeiro.

A cartoon by João Montanaro published by Folha in April sums up the Groundhog Day lived by the press: Now he has crossed the line! No, now he has crossed the line! Wait, now he's crossed the line! Not now has he crossed the line!

That we can get out of this. It will not be trivial.

Flavia Lima

A Reporter specializing in economics, she graduated in social sciences from USP and in law from Mackenzie. She has been the ombudsman for Folha since May 2019.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon