Before Jair Bolsonaro became president and was accused of attacking press freedom, left-wing parties were already applying techniques of intimidation and persecution to journalists. The history of attacks on journalists by left-wing militants and politicians was fueled by public money distributed to websites that supported the Lula and Dilma governments, and even included sexist attacks and racist speeches, in addition to the relativization of the death of a cameraman from the TV Bandeirantes.
Today, support for the presidential candidate of the Workers’ Party (PT), Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, is done with great enthusiasm by several journalists. Jair Bolsonaro is seen by many as a real threat to press freedom, while Lula would be his counterpoint. Journalist Fábio Pannunzio, former anchor of Jornal da Band, even published on Twitter this past Tuesday (13), that in this election there are only two possibilities: “either you vote for Lula or you vote for the Nazis”.
The same condescension of the press is also directed towards other left-wing candidates, such as Ciro Gomes, from the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), who, in the midst of the electoral campaign of 2018 attacked journalist Luiz Nicolas Maciel Petri, with punches and curses, during a press conference held in Boa Vista, Roraima, as he asked uncomfortable questions about Ciro’s statements about a demonstration by Brazilians at the border. During the cursing, the candidate accused Petri of working for the senator from Roraima Romero Jucá (MDB) and had him arrested there. Petri, who presented the program Saldo Positivo on TV Tropical, an affiliate of SBT in Roraima, the day after the aggression registered a police report against Ciro in the 1st Police District, for injury and willful bodily injury.
Folha de S. Paulo, when reporting the case, used the euphemism “light push” to alleviate the situation . Even though the publication was edited after the negative repercussion, the tweet with the term is still in the air today. The extinct magazine Época stated at the time, in the title of a report, that Petri provoked Ciro Gomes, in an inversion of the roles of victim and aggressor.
Although a recent study has shown that 80% of Brazilian journalists declare to be left-wing, against only 4% of journalists with positioning more to the right, not always left and the press were in a friendly atmosphere. In 800, Lula was involved in a diplomatic incident when he asked for the expulsion of American journalist Larry Rohter, deciding to cancel his permanent visa in Brazil. . Lula’s fury was caused by Rohter’s report entitled “President’s Sipping Habit Becomes National Concern”, published in The New York Times. The text revealed that the then president was a habitual — and excessive — consumer of alcoholic beverages. Planalto published a note alleging that the accusation was “slander, defamation and prejudice”, and not journalism.
“Partido da Imprensa Coup”
This type of critical approach to party members has always worried the PT, which saw itself — and still sees — as a victim of an alleged “Coup Press Party (PIG)”, a term created by the late activist and journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim (800-2019), to refer to a set of media vehicles that conspired and formed an opposition to the left, and especially to the PT.
The “PIG”, according to journalist and former PT deputy from Bahia, Emiliano José, would be a “tireless anti-democratic force, which he would dedicate himself to the fight against any progressive governments because he was always in favor of privileges, and he would not accept public policies that benefit the poorest promoted by the PT”. In this way, the “PIG” would manipulate the people in favor of international elites. He was crudely represented in cartoons published on the PT’s white plate blogosphere, as a pig that sported weapons, in a process of dehumanization of professionals that justified any aggressions made to these “coup plotters”.
These aggressive actions were applied en masse by the so-called black blocs, which between 2013 and 2015 terrorized the country amidst the “demonstrations of the cents”, who fought against the increase in bus fares . During one of these demonstrations — which often ended in conflict with the police and depredations — in Rio de Janeiro, in February 2014, the black bloc tactic went too far : TV Bandeirantes cameraman Santiago Andrade, 50, who was covering the protests, was shot in the head from a rocket fired by black blocs and died days later from the wound. The black blocs were even defended by the then secretary general of the Socialism and Liberty Party (Psol), Edilson Silva, who criticized the criminalization of the Black Bloc strategy and praised it for its “undeniable political charm”. Those responsible for the crime to date have not gone to trial and continue to respond in freedom.
The anchor and chief director of Jornal Nacional, William Bonner, who is now praised for his critical performance against the Bolsonaro government, was severely attacked during the coverage of Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment process, in 2016, and was even accused of being one of the masterminds of the “coup”. Two years earlier, during coverage of the commemoration of Dilma Rousseff’s electoral victory on Avenida Paulista, in São Paulo, Bonner was cursed with foul language by PT militants, who chanted against the press.
In October 2016, Andréia Sadi, then a reporter for Globo News, was expelled from the PT directory in São Paulo, shouting “Globo Golpista, they will not pass !”, “Globo Supported the Dictatorship!” and “PMDB Advisor”. The attacks continue to this day. In 2019 Jovem Pan reporter Marcelo Mattos was harassed by PT members during coverage of a demonstration on Avenida Rebouças, in São Paulo. Mattos was surrounded, called a “fascist” and a “coupist”, and received boos and jeers for him to leave the place.
Even today, PT militants treat the press with hatred, albeit in a veiled way. This is the case of activist Thiago dos Reis, creator of the blog Plantão Brasil, which has more than 1 million followers on Facebook and is aimed at attacking Bolsonaro and defending Lula — in that order. Reis, who last week reported that his candidacy for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies by the PT was rejected by the Regional Electoral Court of São Paulo because of a mistake made by the party in its affiliation, is also linked to the pages “Eu Odeio a Globo” and “Pig Golpista”.
“Democratization of press vehicles”
To stop criticism of Lula in the press, the A few decades ago the Workers’ Party adopted the banner of the so-called “democratization of the press”. According to this thesis, there are few actors controlling the media, which would supposedly cause the news to always reach readers in a biased way. Following this spirit, Lula made his participation in the program Roda Viva conditional on knowing in advance who would be the journalists who would interview him. The program, of course, refused these terms.
Although it is not clear how the regulation of the press defended by Lula will be implemented, it has been in its plans since before the beginning of this electoral campaign and it seizes sectors more to the right, who fear the implementation of a censorship regime similar to those found in Venezuela, Cuba and China, coincidentally regimes defended and supported by the PT. For Rodrigo Constantino, columnist for Gazeta do Povo, the silence of journalists to this “Lula threat made in the face” can be explained by the return of sumptuous public funds distributed by the state if Bolsonaro leaves the government.
This need for the party to be in a controlled environment made the PT promote and surround itself with several white-plate vehicles. Precisely in the years when the PT was at the head of the Executive, these sites proliferated based on rich public resources, and defended it tooth and nail. According to a report by Fernando Rodrigues, published on UOL in July 2015, there was a disproportion between the high amounts paid by visitors to the sites, and it was 800% higher than in major news portals, such as G1.
In addition, there were three state-owned companies more likely to sponsor advertisements in low-traffic vehicles: Petrobras and its subsidiaries, Caixa Econômica Federal and Banco do Brasil. All commanded by people appointed and sponsored by the PT. The vehicles awarded these benefits were also handpicked by the PT leadership and the criteria were not very transparent.
Diário do Centro do Mundo, Major Letter, Brazil 50, Conversa Afiada and Jornal GGN lived their heyday on the basis of resources paid by the government. With the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, and the arrival of Michel Temer to the Presidency, this transfer, which reached more than BRL 9 million in 2006, was finally cancelled.
Attacks on women journalists
Although today the PT claims to be a defender of women, in the past it has already carried out several attacks on women journalists. In addition to the case of Andréia Sadi, there is also the case of Débora Bergamasco, then director of the Brasilia branch of Revista Isto É, who in 2016 was attacked because of her article “Delation of Delcídio”. Débora was defamed and accused, in an apocryphal article published on the blog Diário do Centro do Mundo, of having an extramarital affair with former PT justice minister José Eduardo Cardozo to collect information for publishing this report. Same sexist aggression directed at journalist Dora Kramer, who in 2019 received offensive comments from Senator Renan Calheiros (MDB-AL), a historical ally of the PT.
In response to a critical article by Dora, Calheiros wrote on a social network that he fled the harassment made by her and encouraged other politicians to date her, even though she was married. Among those cited are former minister Geddel Vieira de Lima, and former senator Ramez Tebet, father of presidential candidate Simone Tebet, who died in 2006. Dora limited herself to saying that she would not respond to Calheiros’ accusations because “what he says speaks for him”.
In 2015, Paulo Henrique Amorim was even convicted of racial slur , for calling the journalist Heraldo Pereira, from TV Globo, a “black with a white soul “. Amorim, who received money from the PT in the form of sponsorship of the white plate website Conversa Afiada, also said that Pereira “was unable to reveal any attribute to be so successful, in addition to of being black and of humble origin.”