The Media Landscape in Brazil Through the Lens of Ukraine

Fourth estate, watchdog, ideology perpetuator – there are many labels for “media.” In Brazil, the problem of the media is very similar to that in most countries. According to a Brazilian research study in 2014, about 65 per cent of Brazilians watch television every day. According to the same research, they watch about three and a half hours per day. We are the fourth highest country in per capita internet access; still, only 28 per cent trust websites. Twenty four per cent trust news shared in social media networks. Only 22 out of 100 trust blogs.

On the other hand, when we talk of television, 49 per cent believe the news there. And six families own 70 per cent of Brazil’s media. All this means the traditional media still have the power to control minds.

The media – not only in Brazil, but in the entire Western World – aren’t presenting the facts on Ukrainian civil war. Or, at very least, they choose the facts their public is going to receive. They call Ukrainians who don’t support the February 2014 coup d’état in Kyiv “Russian-backed separatists” or even “terrorists.” They make Russia look like an authoritarian empire while the empire that invaded Iraq tells Brazilians and its own people lies in support of fascists in Ukraine. Everybody in the media seems to have forgotten that the president who was ousted last February, Victor Yanukovych, was actually elected before he was kicked out of office.

In 2003, John Pilger asked Charles Lewis, an American investigative-journalist, “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld over Iraq in 2003 and investigated their claims, instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?” Charles replied that had we journalists done our job, “there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq”.

War on the Television Screen

Rede Globo is the biggest TV network in Brazil. Owned by Roberto Marinho, Globo Group was able to open its TV network in 1965 due to their support for the military regime that came into power in Brazil in 1964. The British film “Beyond Citizen Kane,” directed by Simon Hartog, covers Rede Globo‘s history, influence and political connections. The documentary compares Rede Globo‘s founder Roberto Marinho to Charles Foster Kane, the character created by Orson Welles for the film “Citizen Kane.”

On December 12, when talking about a United Nations report on the war in Ukraine, Globo‘s correspondent in Paris, Lucia Muzell, attributed the Malaysia Airline tragedy to “insurgents in East Ukraine,” although it’s still not at all clear who was responsible for that tragic event.

On July 18, Globo News anchor William Waack said that “about 300 people on board [the Boeing 777] were victims of a civil war stimulated and conducted by Moscow”.

“Wars, as Vladimir Putin must know, have this characteristic… they end up gaining their own momentum. They are uncontrollable, unpredictable,” said the anchor.

War on Paper

Folha de São Paulo, the most widely read newspaper in Brazil, sees much of its news on the Ukraine war actually written by foreign news agencies such as Reuters. Folha merely replicates what these agencies publish, meaning that what you see on Reuters about the civil war in Ukraine is probably what Brazilians are reading on Folha‘s website. The articles are superficial. If the newspaper goes deeper in its analysis, it speaks of a “Russian invasion” of eastern Ukraine. There are no words to remind readers that Ukraine actually had an elected president before suffering a coup d’état and no images that would show the ultranationalist and fascists militias which are fighting on Kiev’s side. There is not much published in the newspaper or on its website about the massacre in Odessa last May, when fascists burned down a trade union building in the center of the city with people inside, killing dozens.

The infamous right-wing magazine in Brazil, Revista Veja, could scarcely do better, of course. Its cover page on July 30 showed a black light bulb and read, “Black-out on diplomacy: Silence on the crime against the Boeing committed by Russia […]”. Of course, we know there is no evidence to prove Russia as responsible for the Malaysia Airline’s tragedy. But do Veja’s nine million readers know that? Not likely.

Hope

Fortunately, there are people in this country actually practicing journalism. Independent media outlets have been growing in number Brazil during the last years. Opera Mundi, A Pública and Outras Palavras are examples of that. We at Revista Opera have succeeded in our fundraising campaign to send a correspondent to Eastern Ukraine. On the other hand, it’s a shame that we have to put on a crowdfunding campaign in order to do the work that people with fat paychecks are not doing.