News

June 20, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Ruling party’s deputy leader brands journalists as “pitbulls”


Tension between the government and opposition journalists has risen after Alberto Cantalice, the vice-president of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), accused nine journalists and TV humourists by name of acting as “media pitbulls” and stirring up hatred against the government. A total of 18 cases of harassment or violence against journalists have meanwhile been registered since the FIFA World Cup began in Brazil on 12 June. In an article posted on the PT website on 16 June, Cantalice named journalists Reinaldo Azevedo, Arnaldo Jabor, Demétrio Magnoli, Guilherme Fiúza, Augusto Nunes, Diogo Mainardi and Lobão, and humourists Danilo Gentili and Marcelo Madureira. He said their hatred for the progressive measures of the Lula and Rousseff administrations had become more overt since the start of the World Cup, and accused them of hoping the tournament would be a failure. Those branded “enemies of the motherland” were not slow to respond. Describing the article as a “slanderous” piece of PT propaganda, Magnoli said in a piece published in Globo that he was alarmed to see an official calling for opposition journalists to be “chased (...) in the street.” Azevedo, who works for the magazine Veja, said be would file a libel suit. “We are worried by such grave accusations against journalists coming directly from a high level of the PT,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “We are aware that media polarization may be exaggerating the widespread discontent, but the difficulties PT is experiencing are no excuse for this state propaganda-style lapse.” The accusations have been made at a time of social unrest and street protests against government spending on the World Cup. Journalists have often been targeted when the police disperse demonstrators. According to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI), there have been 17 cases of the rights of journalists being violated since the start of the World Cup. The victims have included reporters with international media such as CNN, Reuters and the Associated Press, as well as journalists working for local media or freelancers. One of the worst cases was that of Karinny de Magalhães, a journalist and activist with the Midia NINJA online news collective, who was beaten unconscious by military police while covering a protest in Belo Horizonte on 12 June. In addition to the 17 cases reported by ABRAJI, Vera Araújo of the daily newspaper O Globo was arrested arbitrarily on 15 June while filming the detention of an Argentine journalist. Proceedings have been initiated against the policeman who arrested her. Brazil is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Reporters Without Borders is using the World Cup as a peg for a campaign to inform the public about respect for freedom of information in the participating countries. Follow RWB’s match fact files.