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Miguel do Rosário | Open Letter on Censorship

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Really? Brazilians can be and often are mind-bendingly racist

Source: Barão de Itararé

Topic: An open letter from Miguel do Rosário (O Cafezinho)

Excerpt: C. Brayton (subheds by CB)

I direct my remarks to the noble and virtuous Brazilian people in my condition as the victim of an absurd act of political violence, one that affects not me alone but the collective and legitimate freedom of expression on a continental scale.

I am referring to the law suit filed against me by Ali Kamel, an employee of the richest family in Brazil — controlling the production of journalism in one of the major media empires in the world.

I am aware of no other democratic nation — except for Italy, which has Berlusconi to contend with — with a media sector with as much financial supremacy and market reserve as Globo.

All Appeals Exhausted

An employee of this group — its general-director for journalism [and sports] — has sued me successfully and the judge sentenced me to pay damages of R$ 20,000, which, together with attorney’s fees, will cost me about R$ 30,000.

The matter is now closed. Kamel won on appeal to the court of the second instance and we were unable to convince the state high court to take the case. No more appeals are possible.

The judge sentenced me and I will have to pay this sum in a matter of days.

“The Adjective Can Kill”

And what was case about? Nothing more than that I wrote a political analysis of the media group for which he works.

I did not attack his honor. I did not call him a thief or accuse him of corruption. I did not call for his firing.

All I said was that he works for a public concession that, in my opening, deserves to face criticism.

To tell the truth, the only adjectives I used to describe the plaintiff which can be considered personally offensive were: sacripanta (false piety) and “reactionary”.

Organizções Globo is a reactionary and code-bloodedly casuistic propaganda machine — Big Brother and his Bikini Brigades.  I have evidence to back my argument.

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

An employee of this group — its general-director for journalism [and sports] — has sued me successfully and the judge sentenced me to pay damages of R$ 20,000, which, together with attorney’s fees, will cost me about R$ 30,000.

The matter is now closed. Kamel won on appeal to the court of the second instance and we were unable to convince the state high court to take the case. No more appeals are possible.

The judge sentenced me and I will have to pay this sum in a matter of days.

“The Criminal Adjective”

And what was case about? Nothing more than that I wrote a political analysis of the media group for which he works.

I did not attack his honor. I did not call him a thief or accuse him of corruption. I did not call for his firing.

All I said was that he works for a public concession that, in my opening, deserves to face criticisms.

To tell the truth, the only adjectives I used to describe the plaintiff which can be considered personally offensive were: sacripanta (false piety) and “reactionary”.

But wait, stop the presses.

Marketing Synergies: Ali Kamel and the Two Guys

The subtitle of Kamel’s not-so-celebrated We Are Not Racists describes the book as a “reaction (reação) to those who would transform us into a two-tone nation.” Although “reactionary” often has a pejorative connotation, the fact is that there are noble causes to react for the sake of, too.

The book appeared simultaneously, I remember, with the beginning of  Globo prime time soap  opera Duas Caras (two guys, two faces) and attracted the attention of Edu Guimarães to its symbolic politics of race relations in its scripting. A leading character is repeatedly seen reading a copy of the book, for example …  But I digress.

And I refer to him [Kamel] strictly in his professional capacity as director of journalism at Globo, the leading media concession in Brazil in terms of audience.

«The day that we are found guilty merely because, in a political article, we called the director of journalism at Brazil’s largest TV concession a “reacionário” and “sacripanta”, will be the end of freedom in Brazil.

Idea for a master’s thesis: Organizações Globo: Sacripanta ou Grand Irmão?

I believe this will be an emblematic case that could prove influential over the years.

I say this because at this very moment, a variety of bloggers are the subject of multiple prosecutions on behalf on a single person or a single political base.

It is a notorious fact that market concentration harms democracy, and is denounced by countless national and international groups.

Repórteres Sem Fronteiras called Brazil the “nation of the 30 Berluconis,” in reference to the families who dominate mass media here.

The UN Freedom of Expression rapporteur, Frank de La Rue, visited Brazil recently and said that the concentration of the media is the most dangerous threat to freedom of expression and a free media.

On the Hush Hush

These negative remarks were hushed up by our media establishment, whose structure remains essentially similar to those of 1960s and 1970s — «the years of lead» — and remains more concentrated than ever.

The rise of political blogs that offer a counterpoint to the major media should therefore be understood as a biologically nature, healthy and necessary expression of the political scene.

If the media acts like a private political party — as a veritable ideological cartel,  recycling the same types of stories again and again, repeating them on the opinion pages and even enlisting the print columnists — it is only natural that blogs would appear on the other end of the ideological spectrum.

If the establishment media is becoming more and more conservative, the blogs are notable for their progressive and unionist tendencies.

It is not easy to maintain a blog, by the way. Rare are the blogs updated constantly, and even rarer still those who manage to make a living at it.

I believe, however, that at this point in time, independent political blogs constitute a breath of democratic fresh air amid the hysterical, reactionary, UDNista voices, many calling for a return to the dictatorship, …

I would not say that our blogs are perfect, or that our establishment press is 100% garbage (let us say, 75% garbage). But we represent an important counterpoint. We help give expression to one of the main guiding lights of our Constitution: political pluralism.

Obviously, a small group of blogs are not going to break down the walls of the media market reserve. They can, however, enrich the debate, creating an escape valve in an environment in which, lacking these voices, would create a desperate situation for many.

The financing of blogs is complicated. While opponents accuse us of accepting “government resources,” we know this is not true.  Recently, data gathered from all the organs of government, including state-owned firms, were opened to public view and it was shown that two or three of the BlogProg* sites receive government advertising (I am not one of them), and even so, involving infinitesimal amounts compared with the ad sales of our large and midsize traditional media groups.

Political blogs are generally speaking maintained out of pocket by the bloggers themselves.

In some cases, such as mine, the blog is sustained by petitions and contributions from readers, as well as an advertisement or two and some AdSense ads from Google …

I have nothing to complain about, however.

The blogosphere, understood as the universe of readers and writers, has always been generous to me. I have hundreds of paying readings and the contributions from an idealist public have always been generous.

I am not expecting positive reports on my work in TV journalism, print or national news magazines.

On the contrary, whenever they cite me, and they are obliged to do so once in a while, they are always trying to [damage my good name.]

In the meantime, I sometimes receive donations and signatures from the low-income classes, something that truly touches me and makes me understand the importance of continuing my work.

I mention this in order to demonstrate the financial fragility of blogs, which represent a new phenomenon, though one not yet assimilated by economic players, especially in a country where the subordination of publicity to the control of media monopolies has not changed since the creation of these monopolies by the military regime.

Fragile, But Necessary!

In any event, against all odds, we are growing.

The blogs have more and more page visits. Cafezinho has more and more supporters.

We have even entered what is the most costly area of journalism: the investigation.

Blogs today are carrying out important investigations, such as my story on Globo’s tax evasion, my story on the Supreme Court minister with the Miami apartment, and now, the story of major players in finance and politics who figure on the list of OffShore Leaks and the records of the Swiss HSBC.

Well, then, given these facts, what can I do in the face of Globo’s cowardly offensive against me and my work?

The money I earn pays my cost of living, which now includes my attorney’s fees.

How could I possibly take on a legal battle of the director of journalism at Globo, whose owners enjoy a fortune greater than that of Ruperto Murdoch, the Australian magnate with a media group larger than that of Berlusconi, owner of several TV channels in Italy and a principal exponent of the European right?

The amount of my fine, R$ 20,000 + court costs, is the same value the courts tend to impose on Veja magazine, which belongs to the Civita oligarchy. O valor imposto, And this is when Veja loses in court, which is seldom.

Something is out of balance, isn’t it?

After watching the courts impose their will on politics, are will we now see censorship become a matter for the courts as well?

What is Globo’s aim? To reduce the already waning political pluralism of our country.

And it still wants to sell itself as a defender of freedom of expression?

Will the left be accused of promoting censorship in order to establish a regulatory body that avoids these types of aberration, in which the media can destroy reputations, and will small vehicles not be able to say a single word?

Cynicism run rampant! They talk impeachment and say that with that democracy has returned. They censor and accuse others of censorship. They steal and yell out “Grab the thief!”

Only Cuban bloggers will be defended by our media, is that it?

The case of the Saudi blogger condemned to hundreds of lashes was denounced by our “free press” — and so what recourse do we have is the publisher of our preeminent media groups persecute us by legal means?

It is one contradiction after another.

I under perfectly, let it be said, that persons can feel offended and seek a remedy in the courts.

If the Media Law were in force, the offended party would have the legal right to response on the blog or other publication, which I would gladly publish.

Ali Kamel may explain to my readers that he cannot be held responsible for the crimes Globo committed against democracy, both in the past and in the present.

Very well, then.

But there is no law regulating this aspect of the media. The media is totally deregulated. The media itself has not introduced any kind of (self-)regulation of the media, of the kind that protects the citizen against libel and the journalist against abuses of economic power practiced arbitrarily by the judiciary.

We are back to the laws of the jungle …

I have no intention of trying to be right every time. I understand a blogger must overstep certain limits at times: the limits between sarcasm, humor, the quip and the insult is frequently tenuous.

An erroneous accusation may sometimes be published (which is the case here, I did not “accuse” Ali Kamel of anything.)

The blogger is used to walking the high wire.

That is all well and good, but a fine ought to be set that is proportionate to the financial condition of a [for-profit or subscriber-supported] blog.

An indy satirical blog does have nave R$ 25,000 to R$30,000 to be distributed to the first person to feel offended.

If I cannot pay this sum, my bank accounts will be blocked and, obviously, my work will suffer.

But I’m not going to be able to pay a single penny.

The absurdity of the verdict, so ridicuously lacking in common sense, just makes you want to laugh.

The richest guys in Brazil, owners of a vast media empire, trying to kill a blogger with hunger!

The plaintiff take advantage of the fact that Brazilian judges are not yet duly aware of the importance of blogs to political pluralism, and that they are not accustomed to the language, sometimes aggressive, that is proper to the genre, especially when they confront the establishment media, the heirs of the dictatorship, symbolic of the mainstream and reflection of centuries of oppression and social inequality.I was found guilty, by the way, for writing a note in support of another blogger, also condemned unjustly.

They want to criminalize a simple act of solidarity.

How much farther can this persecution of a simple bloggers by Globo and its director of Journalism go?

I would like to believe that we live in a democratic regime, that we won the battle against the dictatorship and that, as a result, no heirs to the “years of lead” will emerge victorious from this fundamental clash.