A fundamental error compromised coverage of the 2018 elections by major Brazilian newspapers: Jair Bolsonaro was not objectively portrayed as what he in fact was, a candidate openly determined to destroy democracy, but as a “normal” alternative to the post. The “normalization” of the abominable misinformed the electorate and imposed a high, very high price on the country.
As for the coverage of the Bolsonaro government itself, as of 2019 the press has done better — and the leaf, in particular, shines boldly. At the end of 2018, Patrícia Campos Mello’s reports on the illegal use of WhatsApp by the victorious campaign anticipated what would be the major focus of journalism from then on: investigating, discovering and pointing out the government’s repeated coup attempts against freedoms and the democratic rule of law.
Sem a leaf, we would be in a much worse situation. For example, we would not have the best (because worst) portrait of the environmental devastation that has become State policy: Lalo de Almeida’s photograph showing the body of a howler monkey charred in the Pantanal, as if it had been suddenly “frozen” by fires. That paralyzed, lifeless ape expresses the spirit of an entire country, powerless against fiery barbarism.
Sem a leaf, we could not count on the impulse to diversify from columnists who have a voice in the public sphere, increasing the representation of women, blacks and the LGBT community. without the leaf, we wouldn’t know as much as we do today about former phantom employees and the equally ancient “cracks”. We would not have known so much about the necropolitics that fuels the death toll during the pandemic, any more than we would have seen on the front page a good-sized photo of the public acts that took to the streets of the country on May 29 to protest against this government.
It is easy, albeit necessary, to point out flaws in Brazilian journalism, which is already so battered by the business sustainability crisis, but it is imperative to recognize the merits of this newspaper here.
It is necessary to defend it from the cowardly and disproportionate attacks that it has been suffering. The National Security Law is brandished against writers such as Hélio Schwartsman. On more than one occasion, the government has threatened to discriminate against leaf, preventing it from receiving official funding. The President of the Republic has already intimidated advertisers. The onslaughts of power do not cease, they only get worse, not because of the mistakes, but because of the successes of this diary.
Of course, defending the press is not to be confused with accommodation. Defending the press is also criticizing it. Journalism can do more than it already does. On one front, at least, it’s worth a suggestion. In partnership with other press agencies, the leaf I might as well assemble a large database of all the lies trumpeted by the president and all the typifications of the possible crimes of responsibility committed by him.
The newspaper has already published good reports about it, but it could reorganize them into a dynamic scoreboard that would bring together all the government lies and all the coup attempts, with daily updates. This would contribute to making more visible the facts that define the character of the power pact that disgoverns Brazil today.
Also in the last century, the great journalist Roberto Pompeu de Toledo wrote a profile of this newspaper for Vejinha. The first sentence killed the riddle: “Worse than reading the leaf is not to read it”. Today, for Brazil, it is better, much better, to count on leaf.
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