Folha, Under Attack at 99

Bolsonaro relapses in his offensive on journalism, but his real target is Brazilian democracy

 Upon completing 99 years, Folha is once again under attack by a President of the Republic. Jair Bolsonaro pushes government phalanxes against the newspaper and its professionals. But its ultimate target is neither a newspaper nor the professional press. He's attacking Brazilian democracy.

Our hopes that the former federal deputy would exercise good habits in the position of President have long dissipated. The Presidency is being contaminated by the uncontested ways, the ingrained ignorance, the abject machismo, and the spirit of faction brought by its temporary occupier.

The head of state behaves like a gang leader. His thugs attack the reputation of those who oppose this authoritarian adventure. Presidents of the House and Senate, ministers of the Federal Supreme Court, state governors, reporters, and media organizations suffer as victims of insults and threats.

There is a method to the offensive. The battered actors are part of the apparatus that prevents the poison of despotism from penetrating the institutional body. Bolsonaro has no strength in Congress or even a party. Very little has gone in the preferred way of the President. He now even risks losing what little he has of budgetary command.

He chooses to try to undermine the system of checks and balances. He favors the military with funds, rules, and positions, and this federal example stimulates the appetite of police in the states. The presidential bravado about fuel prices has exposed governors to a clash with truckers.

Digital shooters, militiamen and a part of the military make up the contingent of the President's dreams to compensate for his smallness, satisfy his cesarean nature and challenge the rock of the democratic rule of law.

It has not managed to defile the fortress, but the shocks will become more frequent and incisive if the institutions' response fades. Democracy is the regime of responsibility, which implies the need to punish authority that deviates from the law.

Defending the restoration of an act that closed the National Congress—as deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro did when invoking the AI-5 [English: Institutional Act-5. It was the fifth of seventeen major decrees issued by the military dictatorship]*—should not be considered a minor mistake by the colleagues who will judge him in the Ethics Council.

The immunities for the exercise of the policy were not designed so that agents can defame, insult, and slander citizens without power, as is happening. Dignity, honor, and decorum are legal requirements for the civil service. The President who disrespects them commits a crime of responsibility.

As it enters its 100th year, Folha is convinced that this dirty game will find the answer within democratic institutions. They, like journalism, have a long-term vocation. Jair Bolsonaro, no.

*Acts were the highest form of legislation during the military regime.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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