Not mine, sparrow!

Not mine, sparrow!

"Don't put it on mine

Music by Jair Rodrigues

The STF's plenary decision on whether the press can be held responsible for a statement made by an interviewee has caused a huge stir in the Brazilian press. As soon as the decision was handed down, a myriad of critical comments from the main media outlets flooded the news. 

They deal with the subject with constant diatribes. It's curious how aggressive they are. They talk about censorship, the end of a free press, the end of live reports, dictatorial control, legal insecurity, a dark chapter, attacks on freedom of information, and even the conspiratorial thesis that this decision, together with the appointment of Flávio Dino and Cristiano Zanin to the Supreme Court, would be a form of coup by the left to seize power without the press being able to play its critical role.

The outcry is clearly disproportionate. Typical of the misanthropic behavior of the media, which, however commendable its contribution to democracy may be - and it is - is not immune to the lack of quality in what it produces.

The press has never been self-critical of its role. Nowadays, with the wide reach of news, a malicious or irresponsible publication causes irreparable damage. It can even drive people to suicide.

Little has been seen, for example, of repentance for the admittedly irresponsible conduct of the press in Lava Jato, for the support given to the Military Dictatorship in Brazil or for the Base School scandal in São Paulo. It interprets the full freedom of action described in the Federal Constitution as immunity. In other words, while society as a whole is dancing to the tune of rules and accountability, the press is the improvised melody of freedom without consequences.

The fact is that I don't think the Supreme Court's decision has limited the serious exercise of journalism. The thesis issued by the Supreme Court limits the cases that can be held liable to situations in which "at the time the interview was broadcast it was already known, by concrete indications, that the accusation was false and the company did not fulfill its duty of care to verify the veracity of the facts and to disclose that the accusation was controversial". The decision, therefore, speaks of falsely imputing crimes and a lack of duty of care in verifying the truth of the facts. These are basic requirements of good journalism(see article on the objectivity of journalism).

The press claims it can't control what the interviewee says. That's not the case.

It chooses the interviewee and the form of the interview. And there are already internal control mechanisms for everything the press publishes or airs. It is naïve to think that the journalist's work doesn't pass through the scrutiny of the selected agenda, the editorial, the commercial interests and the final editing before being published.

And if the problem is the live interview, there are remedies that can be implemented. I cite as an example another case that occurred in the same week. In an interview with Jovem Pan, journalist Paula Schmitt made fat-phobic and racist comments about the Minister of Justice and a CNN journalist. The program's anchor immediately intervened and repudiated the interviewee's conduct, making it clear that the media outlet does not agree with what was said live. This type of intervention, coupled with a note from the interviewer stating that "the media outlet cannot vouch for the veracity of the statements made by the interviewee, which are not necessarily true" can and should be adopted in live interviews. In political debates there is already a lot of intervention by the mediating journalist in this sense, including granting an immediate right of reply to the offended party. 

This unique treatment that the press wants for the exercise of its profession reminds us of George Orwell in his famous book "The Revolution of the Beasts", in which he makes a political satire about the nature of authority, power and equality in society. Orwell coined the famous phrase "Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others".

In practice, this decision will only have an impact on those media outlets that are known for bad journalism and will therefore be beneficial to the profession. Corroborating my perception are the editorials in the newspapers O Globo and Estadão on December 1, 2023. 

In today's times of abundant fake news and lack of control over information, it is no exaggeration to demand caution in what is disseminated. The very recent case of FOX News, the powerful US media empire that confessed to broadcasting fake news during the 2020 US election process and paid 787.5 million dollars to end the process, sheds light on the importance of reviewing certain behaviors. Never censorship. Responsibility for what is produced is essential.

About Author

Maurício Ferro

What do soccer, wine, law, politics, and economics have in common? Much more than you can imagine. And contrary to what the popular saying says, they can and should be debated and analyzed, yes. Welcome to Maurício Ferro's site, a channel to create and exchange thoughts and opinions. Maurício Ferro is a lawyer, graduated from PUC university in Rio de Janeiro, with a Master's degree and specializations from universities such as the London School and the University of London. He studied OPM at Harvard Business School. Author of published works in the commercial and capital markets areas, and acting in the Board of Directors of large companies, he based his legal and executive career with a focus on Business Law. But his passion goes beyond the corporate world. A passionate Flamenguista, Mauricio knows the ins and outs of the professional world of soccer and other sports. He is a partner in innovative companies such as 2Blive, a global startup focused on technological solutions to fill the education gap, especially in areas of great need such as Africa. He also invests in the Flow Kana company, based in California, and focused on the scientific production of cannabis for various purposes, such as medicinal, clothing production, or recreational use. To all these ingredients, add a deep knowledge of wine and the delicious ways of winemaking. That is the recipe for what you will find here.

1 Comment

  • Excellent article. Congratulations.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *