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Protests in Brazil heighten debate on quality of mass media’s coverage

July 6, 2013

By Isabela Fraga

Amid the massive protests spreading throughout Brazil — sparked by an increase in bus fares — the mass media coverage also has become a target of criticism.

Besides playing the role of observers and sometimes participants, media outlets have been accused by protesters of manipulating information. Cries like “down with Rede Globo,” the country’s largest TV network, became common during the manifestations. Reporters with other large media outlets have been harassed and insulted during the protests. Dissatisfaction with traditional media has revived the calls for a new regulatory framework for the country’s comminications and the democratization of Brazilian media.

protesteFor Pedro Ekman, with the collective Intervozes, the protests have made it clear that there is a crisis of representation in Brazilian media with regards to the general population. “People go to the streets and see one thing, then they go back home and see another in media’s coverage. They began to perceive that the traditional media changed their views to suit their best interests, in more or less veiled ways,” he said. “People don’t see themselves there, in the mass media’s very editorialized stories.”

According to Ekman, there was a sudden change in the media’s stance regarding the protests, specially after the June 13 protests in São Paulo, when police officers acted violently against protesters and journalists. Newspaper Folha de São Paulo, for example, published on its front page that day a headline that read “SP’s government says it will be stricter with vandalism.” After the evening of police repression, the next day’s cover story read “Police act violently during protests and SP lives a night of terror.”

Since then, Ekman said, newspapers and newscasts changed their narrative of the events. “After that day — and also after making a macro-political analysis and concluding that the protests would affect the federal government — the editorial line changed: it started celebrating the manifestations.”

However, while Ekman believes the change in the media’s editorial line affected the public’s opinion of them, Marcelo Beraba, director of Estado de S. Paulo’s branch offices in Rio de Janeiro, said that the case demonstrated the media’s honesty. “What’s the problem with changing one’s mind?” Beraba asked. “If at some point at the beginning of the mobilization there was a negative view of the manifestations, due to lack of knowledge, and later there was a realization of the magnitude of it all, that’s an honest stance,” he said.

From atop buildings and helicopters, next to police officers and even amidst protesters (often carrying microphones without logos to avoid hostilities), Brazilian reporters were more than present at the manifestations. For Eugenio Bucci, a media analyst and professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), at the same time that protesters lambasted media conglomerates as a symbol of the status quo, there were also moments of fraternity and solidarity — for example, when journalists were attacked by the police or when they are seen as vehicles to expand the reach of the protests. Read the rest of the story at the JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog.

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