Under attack in a polarized world, journalism needs to be more transparent than ever and encourage tolerance as a way of preserving freedom of expression, participants in a debate held on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day said on Tuesday (4) .
In the virtual panel “Polarization and freedom of the press”, which was part of the International Seminar on Freedom of the Press, journalists and experts analyzed the obstacles to communication in times of division, with suggestions to encourage dialogue in different media.
The event was the result of a partnership between Unesco, Instituto Palavra Aberta, leaf, Abert (Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters), ANJ (National Association of Newspapers) and Aner (National Association of Magazine Editors).
Also participating in the organization were: Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism), Jeduca (Association of Education Journalists) and the US Embassy in Brazil.
This Tuesday’s debate, the last of the two-day seminar, brought together American journalist Amanda Ripley, the head of the area of freedom of expression and security for Unesco journalists, Guilherme Canela, and GloboNews anchor Aline Midlej, with mediation by the journalist Guilherme Amado, from Abraji.
An investigative reporter and author of the book “The Smartest Children in the World”, Amanda shared experiences of coverage in the United States after the rise of former President Donald Trump. For her, what is experienced in the country is a scenario of high conflict, common in critically polarized places.
“It is different from normal conflict, from healthy debate. In places of high conflict, there is usually a question of us against them, false binarisms. The brain starts to function in a way that sees the other side as something insane. It is very difficult to introduce new information in a context like this “, he said.
The journalist, who has already done work for publications such as Time and The Atlantic magazines, called the trap a trap for reporting work and acknowledged that it is difficult to find a way out, but said that one of the ways for professional journalism is to adopt the concept of radical transparency.
“We have to be radically transparent, explaining everything all the time. The public does not understand what we are doing when we use anonymous sources or when we decide to cover one agenda and not another. Another important thing is not to complicate the narrative,” said Amanda.
Later, the Unesco representative returned to the topic, asking that the vehicles be clear when differentiating opinion (from the communication company itself or from a collaborator) from reporting (produced from specific techniques and with the intention of presenting and discussing a topic. ).
“A problem built up over the past few decades, and which I suspect may have contributed to a certain level of public mistrust in relation to professional journalism, is that opinion, reporting and eduteinment [entretenimento educativo] started to be mixed “, said Canela.
The coordinator of the UN agency said that it is important “to separate these worlds, which is not so easy” and defended an expansion of self-criticism. “If we look at the world, and also in Brazil, the number of newspapers that have ombudsmen, which you count on the fingers of a hand, we see how much the media itself is willing to make a process of transparency.”
Aline, in agreeing with the need for self-observation by the media, mentioned the existence of an ombudsman in the leaf, since the newspaper has had it since 1989.
“The figure of the ombudsman, in some vehicles, such as leaf, this is already very structured and important. Even though I am not there in that vehicle, I read it, because it makes me think about the way I am telling those same stories and the pitfalls and biases that accompany us “, he reported.
The GloboNews presenter also said that journalists should strive to “broaden their narratives”, in order to transmit the information with a broader look and that contributes to the public debate without adding more fuel to the fire of political fights and ideological sectarianism.
“I think we have to think daily if we are being able to hear those who think differently from us, to enter into a debate in which we put what we think without separating the other. That we also strive to improve our our narrative. It’s a daily exercise, “she said.
“When we generate content, we need to think about whether we are doing it in a way that goes in the direction of creating tolerance. Because it is exactly intolerance that fuels these environments where there is a stimulus to the restriction of freedom of expression and the press,” he added. the anchor.
Speaking of the USA, Amanda said that the country today has a polarization “at a toxic level”, in which different sides see themselves as rivals and are unable to reach understanding even to resolve situations in which they agree. The process, she continued, has an impact on the credibility of the press.
“It is very difficult, as a journalist, to accept the discourse that ‘trust comes before the fact’, as I have heard. Comparing to a painter, facts are like our brushes. They are elements with which we work throughout our career” said the American.
“Exalted spirits make the work of the press more difficult on a daily basis,” said the panel’s mediator, who is a columnist for Época magazine and CBN radio. “Reporters are attacked daily by government officials, by citizens encouraged by government officials.”
A few days ago it became known that Brazil, for the first time, fell into the “red zone” in the ranking of press freedom released annually by the NGO Repórteres Sem Fronteiras. The organization associated the fact with the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) to the Presidency.
Amado also pointed out the exercise of “blowing bubbles” as a way for journalists to help mitigate polarization and, summing up the speeches of other participants, defended the so-called media education.
“We have to do this homework”, commented the journalist and director of Abraji, after Canela demanded from traditional vehicles and digital companies a greater didacticism about, for example, the logic of the social networks algorithm, which “commands to people what they want to hear “.
“Part of the solution to this problem is what we call media and information literacy. We need to empower citizenship to have a critical relationship. The risk is to put something complex on the shoulders of citizens, because they are dealing with gigantic companies. And, moreover, this is a long-term process “, said the UNESCO representative.
In the first part of the event, this Monday (3), participants discussed the motto “Information as a public good”. One of the conclusions of the debate was that threats to press freedom have taken on new and worrying forms, ranging from private censorship to subtle intimidation about journalism.
Among the panel’s participants were Luís Roberto Barroso, minister of the STF (Supreme Federal Court), Marlova Noleto, Unesco representative in Brazil, Flavia Lima, ombudsman of the leaf, and Flávio Lara Resende, president of Abert.