Impeachment: A Coup by the Press [OPINION]

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This article by Juliana Portella is one of a series of five opinion pieces on the impeachment by community reporters published this week on RioOnWatch.

Ju, as Juliana prefers to be called, is a 25-year-old journalist, editor and social media communicator. Juliana is also a teacher and dedicates herself to giving classes to youth for university entrance exams in a community at the antepenultimate station on the Japeri train line, Queimados. Suburban, but a citizen of the world, during her roaming she remains fixed on an idea: to build a more just and humane world. “What I am is always under construction,” she says.

The current political scene is delicate. Of what we know, one thing is certain: nothing would have reached the dimension it has without the structural role of the means of mass communications. Those who think the press only covers the facts are deceiving themselves.

We should always reflect on the role of the media. But for us to understand what is classified as journalism, it is important to analyze in what form it is conceived and the ideological horizon it represents. It’s also very important to reflect on what is news, what is journalistic coverage and the ways in which it is produced.

The media has held its position in society since primordial times. The intention of forming public opinion is one of the most marked objectives of communication and everyone knows this. Phrases are repeated exhaustively; all sides of a story are made invisible; framing, words, and statements make the discussion lose its neutrality.

There are times we watch the Globo Network propagate the current administration of President Dilma Rousseff as a heavy burden and the “worst government of all time.” It is a brazen and convincing narrative that is mobilizing an expressive part of the Brazilian population to request the impeachment of a government that was democratically elected. It’s a media stunt to embarrasses any journalism professional. A performance of authoritarian partnership with a judicial system that rises above the constitution.

Articles proclaim that “the government is circled,” and “Dilma is not going to cope with the pressure.” They have even referred to Dilma as the “ex-president.” Reporters and commentators have been taking turns to exalt the protests of the white elite in order to give the acts a decisive weight over the politics of the country. Television viewers even lost out on the Sunday afternoon film for live impeachment coverage. The TV show Faustão had live coverage of the demonstrations. This is serious!

In his book “Concepts in Journalism,” Michael Kunczik approaches very important questions in relation to these recent days. The vulnerability of journalistic work, our time’s obsession with the latest news, the professional culture of journalists, and the organization of work and its relation to social aspects. How does a journalist write about a situation or object that he or she is totally unfamiliar with, and how does he or she write when the object is known?

“An objective and neutral journalism passively distances itself from the events it discusses. The opposite is an actively compromised, participatory and socially engaged journalism which promotes causes. In reality these two normative images are not mutually exclusive. A journalist can feel equally compromised by an objective and neutral report and by social obligation…,” Kunczik explains.

With the possibility of adopting only one of the two presented behaviors, the function of the journalist presented by the author as a “defender” is conceived as the support for social causes and his or her own interests. This side of journalism practice represents, therefore, an attempt to change the social structure in which we live. So, would the journalistic text, worked in this manner, have more power of persuasion over the reader?

It’s evident that a discourse and a specific context effectively reaches the public. The great mission of the means of mass communication is the forming of public opinion. What this tells us is “that which is in Chico is also in Francisco” [a proverb meaning that which is found in the boy is also found in the father]. If Facebook today has more than 1.4 billion users worldwide and 80% of the Brazilian population is connected, what are we waiting for?

It is also logical to think that after 21 years of military dictatorship (1964-1985), the Brazilian press assumed a new role. It came to be understood as a central agent in the construction of citizenship and also democracy. In a country that until then was marked by censorship, the mark of liberty in the late 1980s would justly be a relief and a conquest of a fundamental right, the freedom of the press.

This marked fact in history makes us understand, therefore, that visibility is an essential condition for citizenship, but it also justifies how journalism in Brazil is seen as a tool of public utility.

What to do then with this assembled scene, this carousel that is the production and movement of information, practices and attitudes on TV? If the press can act like a political party, let them say their factoids during the national evening news. We will attack on social media during the day.