Invisible Sexual Crimes

Why is it that some cases do not appear in the press in the form of news?

In two articles published by Folha this week, lawyer Luciana Temer and Folha columnist Djamila Ribeiro addressed the same theme: a long and detailed report by the Âgencia Pública on decades of accusations of sexual exploitation involving businessman Samuel Klein, the founder of Casas Bahia. He died at the age of 91 in 2014.

Were it not for the texts of the two women—who talk about how silence covers up crimes with these characteristics—the reader of Folha might not even have been aware of the very serious accusations.

Published on Wednesday (15), the report by Âgencia Pública says that for decades Samuel Klein enticed minors and sexually exploited them, even doing this inside the company's headquarters in São Caetano do Sul (SP).

In exchange for the meetings, Klein would offer money and other gifts, from basic food baskets to cars to products from the retailer's stores.

Director, editor, and reporter of the Âgencia Pública, Thiago Domenici tells the column that the investigation lasted four months and six reporters worked on it, from a tip received about the story of Saul Klein, the son of Samuel accused of sexual crimes for more than 30 women.

Interestingly, the suspicions about the son, denied by his lawyers, were revealed by Folha in an article by Mônica Bergamo published in December 2020.

The director of Pública says that, in a few days, they found more than ten lawsuits against Samuel Klein for moral damages due to sexual abuse. According to him, if all the women sought by Pública had agreed to speak, there would be at least 30 depositions to find out. There were ten, three of whom agreed to have their names disclosed.

In total, 35 people were heard, including alleged victims, lawyers, former employees, neighbors, and even a taxi driver.

In addition to lawsuits and police investigations, there are documents, photos and videos of parties, as well as audio recordings, which include facts that occurred at least between 1989 and 2010 (with Klein already close to 90 years old).

Despite widespread circulation on social media, repercussions in outlets such as Nexo, El País, and magazines such as Marie Claire and Claudia, in addition to published opinion articles (all written by women, according to Domenici), the large media outlets ignored the story.

Contrary to what usually happens in cases of this dimension, the mainstream press did not investigate, resonate or republish the material.

"Of the major media outlets, including television channels, no one has discussed the issue so far [April 23] in their daily coverage. In our perception, the revelation did not gain national repercussions due to the lack of news coverage," says the director of Pública.

In the case of Folha, the stance draws even more attention because the newspaper has a partnership with the Public Agency and, if it wanted to, it could have published the full story.

Roberto Dias, editor in chief, says he considers the information reported by the Âgencia Pública to be in the public interest. "We discussed the case and decided to carry out our own investigation on this matter, in view of the possible criminal charges involved."

However, in a quick search for articles from Âgencia Pública in Folha, it is possible to find texts from the agency that even involved criminal charges.

One of the articles, published in August 2020, revealed a series of sexual abuse of children in Minas Gerais.

Domenici affirms that Pública agreed that Folha would publish a shorter version last week. In the end, they received the news that the text would not be published because it was an editorial decision. "We didn't understand," says the journalist.

There are more incomprehensible things. Cases like this seem to involve gears that have operated for years without those responsible being disturbed - neither by the police nor by the press.

The alleged scheme of sexual exploitation unveiled by Âgencia Pública ran in parallel, and were often dependent on the main business. It is strange that such a well-considered case only appears in Folha in opinion articles, that is, it does not exist in the form of news. Republishing the whole of a case like this can be a choice. Including it in the news coverage is a must.

In response to Âgencia Pública, Via Varejo, the company that controls the Casas Bahia brand, clarified that the Klein family never exercised any control role in the holding company established in 2011 to manage the Casas Bahia, Pontofrio,, and Bartira brands. The Klein family lamented that the patriarch was not alive to defend himself against the accusations mentioned. Regarding two lawsuits in progress, the family said that they are running in secret from the courts and that the decisions will be upheld.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon