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Zé Dirceu | The Weak in Leaks

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An inland São Paulo newspaper has its phone tapped to determine whether or not it is leaking information in the furtherance of a criminal enterprise.

The chattering classes weigh right in on the ethical subtleties of the case.

The blog of disgraced former PT Cardinal Zé Dirceu begs to differ, as translated below.

The entire Brazilian media, led, naturally by the Marinho family and Globo and its flagship news program, Jornal Nacional, have focused intensely (over the past three days) on the breach of privacy represented by the bugging of the telephones of an inland newspaper — the Diário da Região, in São José do Rio Preto, and one of its journalists, Allan de Abreu.

The decision was criticized by industry associations, but roundly defended by Carlos Alberto de Mello of Observatório da Imprensa, ed. 821.

“The surveillance warrant was signed by municipal judge Dasser Lettiere Jr., based on the argument that they may have been publishing information protecting by a gag order. In 2011, the paper published two reports based on data obtained from federal police wiretaps of a group of inspectors from the Ministry of Labor who had allegedly demanded bribes of business owners to free them from fines related to working conditions.

“In May of this year, the federal attorney (MPF) had already determined the opening of a probe into journalists of TV Tem, a Globo affiliate in São José do Rio Preto, for leaking the exact same information, but the charges were dropped.

“And now, with Globo in the vanguard, the industry is backing the newspaper’s defense against the judicial ruling.

“They allege that the wiretapping of the Diário and its reporter is unconstitutional, in that it does not protect the anonymity of the source from whom the reporter received the information. They revive the old cliché, that this is, in practice if not in theory, a violation of the freedom of the press.

“What this media doesn’t say is that it and its accomplices also disrespect the Constitution.

“What our news media does not say — starting again with Globo’s mighty Jornal Nacional — is that today it is common for journalists to violate the confidentiality of cases [conducted under a gag order.]

“They violate these rules constantly and without ceremony, demonstrating a contempt for the legal norms and the Constitutional norms for judicial investigations, inquiries or trials making their way through the Justice system.

“They do it openly, shamelessly. Globo in particular, but also the major dailies, the Folha and Estadão, and the newsweeklies Veja e Época. Examples abound. They all have a direct line to senior agents, magistrates and even with certain judges who, selectively and on purpose, violate the law and Constitution and leak secret information.

“In fact, all of them commit a criminal act — the leaker, the reporter, and the publisher– in the interest of political and electoral ambitions, as we saw during the recent campaign and the eve of election day, in the case of Operation Car Wash.

“That case, by the way, is particularly objectionable because what was leaked was information obtained from a plea bargain, which can lead to the nullification of the entire operation or the plea bargain itself.

“This use of this defense in the case of São José do Rio Preto clearly reflects a veiled corporate  agenda in its appeals to freedom, extolling itself with a patriotic rhetoric based on freedom of expression, the freedom of professionals, and in this manner conceals what in practice journalists and authorities engage in every day when they violate the law by exchanging secret information on investigations, enquiries and gag orders.

Leaks ruin investigations because they tip off criminals.

This was the case in this case of the inland newspaper. The leak damaged the investigations by alerting the suspects. And how does the Brazilian press look upon this exercise in pseudojournalism, with the leaking of secrets based on an illegal method? It stands up and applauds

Now, the right of response, itself a constitutional right, in practice does not exist in Brazil today, and our media do all they can to keep things that way. It does not exist because our media simply refuses to apply it.

The reason is a simple one: the media wants to be feared in order to exercise influence over governments using its monopoly over information. As they are doing now in reporting in a skewed and partial manner the facts in the case of the telephone surveillance of the journalist and his paper, in order to pressure a civil servant into committing a crime by violating the gag order.

It also behaves this way because it wants to be feared in order to manipulate and distort as it pleases and thereby — many times in an exchange of favors –obtain contracts to print school books at their publishing plants, take a bite out of ever more plump and juicy advertising budgets, and obtain fiscal exemptions and tax laws that favorite it.