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“Payola” Case Divides Supreme Court


Source: Observatório da Imprensa

Topic: As the supreme court mulls a new trial for “payola” defendants. G1 has just reported a tie in the vote on whether figures involved in the “payola of the PT” scandal — the mensalão of the Workers Party — have the right to have their appeals heard.

At the moment, 5 of the 11 have voted in the affirmative and 5 in the negative.

The vote will conclude next Tuesday.

On a second front, some defendants may appeal to the OAS’s CIDH because their right to face two levels of jurisdiction, at a minimum, has not neen respected. The folk-demon Zé Dirceu, for example, has reportedly talked the gambit over with friends and advisors.

On this theory, because the trial was conducted with the  Supreme Court as the primary and terminal trial court, the proceedings represent failures to adhere to international convention,

In the meanwhile,an eloquent scene-setter from the Observatório .

As it could not help but be, the possibility of an about face in the judgment of Penal Action 470 was a top headline in the Thursday papers.

It took some of the heat off the NSA-Petrobras scandal, for example, for which the people at the embassy — all those gratuitous attachés and such — must be grateful. The OI continues:

As the Supreme Court  session went into recess, four votes had already been registered in favor of accepting an appeal that would given 12 of the 25 defendants convicted the right to a review of the case against them.

Another two favorable votes are guaranteed among the eleven magistrates on the federal high court. .

The press recounts in fine detail votes that opened a precedent for a conviction without imprisonment of the convicted defendant, which has caused controversy in two cases: ex-Chief of Staff of José Dirceu, federal deputy José Genoíno and former Workers Party treasurer Delúbio Soares.

If, during the session scheduled for Thursday, another two ministers vote in favor of accepting the appeal, as expected in cases in which the vote for conviction was approved by a small margin it wll be necessary to name a new rapporteur and a new critical reader (revisor) which could radically alter the court’s tendency  to date, extending the trial until the end of 2014.

The major dailies with national circulation focus on various technical political aspects of the case, but the central question, appropriate to an observatory of the press and not just the legal aspects of the case, has been dealt with exclusively by the Estado de S. Paulo.

If ministers of the Supreme Court accept the thesis of a new trial, then former PT leaders already convicted could be found innocent of criminal conspiracy. “More than simply sparing them from punishment — or lightening the sentences — the decision could promote a change in the political narrative that has eaten away at the PT since the outbreak of the “payola” scandal in 2005,” the São Paulo daily says.

This aspect of the news coverage — its narrative — has been the focal point of newsgathering on the scandal, producing a close,attention to the dramatic aspects, producing an incitement that was very useful, from a public relations point of view.

After the scandal broke with the testimony of May 2005 by former lawmaker Roberto Jeferson, president of the PTB political party, narrative archetypes have driven the shaping and selection of the facts, creating a cycle in which the truth came to be less important than the proliferating versions and rumors.

For this reasons the verification  referred to by the Estadão deserves special attention.

It exposes the infuence the traditional mass media oligopolies still exert over institutions, though not necessarily over society, because even with the  clamor of a hegemonic discourse calling for the conviction of the accused, the press was not able to prevent two electoral victories by the PT despite the frenetic efforts of 2005 and 2006.

Expectation Disappointed

From the beginning, due to the natural public interest of the episode, the SFT has had its entrails exposed on an almost daily basis, in a narrative that was rapidly appropriated by the press and transformed into a political instrument — in favor of the federal opposition, of course.

There are plenty of analyses pointing out the arguable defects of this intense, excessive exposition of the STF ministers, as well as many evaluations about a possible contaminaton of the ministers as a result of their having become celebrities. The most notorious example of this effect is Joaquim Barbosa, rapporteur of the “payola of the PT” case,who was transformed by the press into a paladin of Justice.

With his nerves shot due to the worsening of his back pain durig the lengthy sessions and debates, and because of his explosive temper, Barbossa has navigated in controversial seas throughout a period in which he wound up as a hypothesis for a presidential campaign in 2014.

It seems to me that Barbosa is crabby and restless mainly because he suffers terrible back pain. Give the man a break. 

All this and more has been woven into the poltical narrative to which the Estado refers.

Now that the technical perspective enters into conflict with the more or less egalitarian treatment afforded as the prisoners awaited trial … In any event, the image of the STF, having fixed itself in the public mind as one of thethe chief defendants of the scandal, which should send them off to a season in prison. With two more votes, however, that possibility becomes a remote one.

What to do then, with the narrative produced by the Supreme Court in a case in which the Court consorted with the press?

The papers speak of the federal government’s concerns aover the probable delay in the trial, which would mean competing for column inches with the presidential reelection campaign . But this is merely a partisan dilemma. The ball is now in the court of the press: the narrative of the case has turned out in such a way that millions of Brazilians, the imprisonment of the accused is transformed into an importat turning point for the administration of Justice. A different result would  be considered another case of the folkloric “pizza.”

Note to self: explain “pizza.” It’s a Brazilian thing.

What idea of the Judiciary will the major dailies sell should the STF decision run counter to its expectations?