Coverage of Such Crimes Needs to Evolve

Among readers, mostly men, the decision to publish the story was criticized, as it would potentially destroy reputations. Was the newspaper wrong?

On November 28, Folha published a story about a rape accusation made by journalist Amanda Audi against university professor Alexandre Andrada.

According to the text, without hearing all the witnesses named in the investigation or further investigating, the police had sent a report to the court that resulted in the investigation being closed.

A week later, Andrada found space on page A3 of the newspaper to write about the facts: he said that the newspaper had published serious and untrue information about him, based on a complaint filed months ago by the Public Ministry and without contacting him to hear your version.

Could Audi do the same? No, because at the request of Andrada's lawyers, Justice forbade her to talk about the case.

In an email to the ombudsman, Andrada also questioned whether it would be ethical for Folha to "use its staff" to reverberate what would be slander, thanks to the bonds of friendship between the journalist and some of her employees. Audi is a journalist, as are the three witnesses listed in the case (one of them a reporter for Folha itself).

Among readers, mostly men, the decision to publish the story was criticized, as it would potentially destroy reputations. Was the newspaper wrong?

What defines whether a subject should be published or not is in the public interest, and it exists in this case. It is undeniable that the text's publication exposed those involved, but this was done based on facts of public knowledge that produced legal consequences.

The investigation was closed for lack of evidence, but that does not reduce the article's interest. The filing is a decision of the court, subject to reconsideration, as the text says.

Andrada says his side was not covered in the article, which would be serious. It turns out that Andrada was not interviewed, but his lawyer - his legal representative - was, which meets the basic rule of listening to the other side.

The case was exposed on social networks by the journalist involved before being banned by the Justice from talking about the subject. After that, the article was completed, which assumes that hearing all the witnesses would have been crucial.

In the text he wrote for Folha, however, Andrada says that the defense listed the witnesses.

It is common, say lawyers, that investigated appoint a series of witnesses to exalt their qualities or even delay the investigation's progress, which ends up weighing on the delegate's decision to hear them all or not.

Therefore, it would be important that the information that the witnesses were appointed by Andrada was in the initial report, because, for the understanding of the outcome of the investigation, it makes a difference to know who indicated them.

There is another point that draws attention. The text does not say, but the investigation was closed about five months ago. The journalist's last post on the case, on the other hand, was on November 3 — the hook for other newspapers to publish material on the case.

UOL, for example, published the story on November 4, the day after the tweet mentioned. In the case of Folha, why publish the article 25 days later? Did the newspaper take long to gain access to more detailed information from the survey? Was it enough time to listen to everyone involved?

The lack of explanations to the reader strengthens the argument that the report only came out because some media people are involved.

As I have already said in this space, journalists see as secondary points that, once exposed, would dispel conspiracy theses and bring much more security to the reader.

Vinicius Mota, Folha's editorial secretary, says that the report gathered elements to question the soundness of the criminal investigation of a case denounced by the journalist herself on her social networks and points out that the defendant's defense was heard.

In response to the publication of Andrada's text, Mota says that the newspaper is committed to offering ample space to the adversary to whom it is accused or expresses complaints about reports, as is the case, and page A3 is a space traditionally used for this purpose .

In addition, Andrada uses to defend some stereotypes that surround victims of accusations of sexual violence. And, surprisingly, the prosecutor of the case said that it was a case of "two people confused by their intentions and feelings," an observation that does not seem to me to be part of his duties.

The Maria da Penha Law cites the media's ethical values to curb stereotyped roles that legitimize or exacerbate domestic and family violence.

Therefore, removing coverage from cases involving suspicions of sexual crimes from old prejudices and clichés is more than a moral prerogative, it is in the law. The approach, however, cannot be made at the expense of sobriety and maximum information.

Flavia Lima

A reporter with a specialization in economics, Flavia Lima 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